Which Butler County cities will get Amtrak stops? New map shows preliminary plan

Credit: India Duke

Credit: India Duke

Hamilton, Oxford and Sharonville would have stops if Amtrak routes are added connecting Cincinnati with Columbus and Cleveland, Indianapolis and Chicago, according to preliminary plans. Middletown would not.

All three Butler County cities recently approved legislation encouraging the addition of Amtrak routes, with hopes of landing stops.

Hamilton, meanwhile, hopes to land a stop on both routes. Those are the “3Cs+D” of Cincinnati-Dayton-Columbus-Cleveland, for which Sharonville would have the nearest stop for Butler County, and the expanded and more frequent service along the Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago route, on which Hamilton and Oxford would have stops.

Yet if Hamilton had its choice, the city would prefer to be on the “3Cs+D” route, which some believe would have more daily traffic, as opposed to possibly more weekend trips to and from Chicago. The problem is, the rails Amtrak proposes to link Cincinnati with the other major Ohio cities is the Norfolk & Southern line, which passes to the east of Hamilton.

A map Amtrak recently made public placed green dots, representing new stops, on Hamilton, Oxford and Sharonville.

A preliminary Amtrak route map places stations in Hamilton, Oxford and Sharonville, but not in Middletown. PROVIDED
A preliminary Amtrak route map places stations in Hamilton, Oxford and Sharonville, but not in Middletown. PROVIDED

“Each of those dots on the map was chosen intentionally,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

They are based on projected ridership and also the amount of time it would take for people to ride a route.

“The more stops a train makes, the longer a schedule is,” Magliari said.

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That’s why Middletown isn’t a stop on the 3Cs+D route.

Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott called Oxford’s green dot “good news,” saying, “We’re pretty excited about this and we’re moving forward with this.”

Oxford has signed an agreement with engineering firm AECOM to design a railroad platform, and Miami University is helping fund with the funding. The platform will be near the Nelson Morrow building at 909 S. Main St.

Oxford City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution authorizing Elliott to negotiate an option to buy the building from the school district, which school officials are having appraised. If the city buys the building it likely will demolish it to create a walkway to the railroad platform and some parking spaces. CSX has sent Amtrak a letter saying it is agreeable to establishing a stop in Oxford for the Cardinal route to Indianapolis, Elliott said.

Before any of the routes can happen, Amtrak says it needs Congress to do two things:

  • Include in the upcoming Transportation and Housing Urban Development appropriations bill $5 billion for capital improvements and $60 million for operations to fund Amtrak’s Corridor Development Program.
  • Renew the five-year federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization this year, with changes that include Amtrak’s proposed Corridors Development Program authorized at $25 billion for capital improvements and $300 million for operations over five years. The bill proposes federal subsidies for the routes as they develop ridership.

Passage of each likely will be a struggle.

“Still much of what we’re talking about is a vision,” Magliari said. “It is not a plan, it is not a proposal. We’ll get down to the short strokes on that once the two things happen. But certainly the route that goes through Hamilton, the (historic CSX) station’s sort-of in the middle of it, that’s definitely on the route to Indianapolis that we’re using for the Cardinal” route.

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Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said he has spoken regularly with Amtrak and has been assured the proposals are fluid and subject to change. He hopes the 3Cs+D route will pass through the Butler County seat, rather than using the Norfolk & Southern lines to the east. That route is favored, Maliari said, “because it’s the shorter, more direct route.”

Middletown spokeswoman Shelby Quinlivan noted Middletown City Council recently approved a resolution that noted “Middletown has a long history of railroad usage, including the presence of a railroad depot near the downtown area.” The resolution urged Congress to approve legislation that would make it possible.

Sharonville Mayor Kevin Hardman, who said his city has not had recent discussions with Amtrak, was pleased to hear about his city’s inclusion as a stop.

“We as a city have the ability to entertain those discussions,” Hardman said, adding that with his city’s proximity to major highways, “that Sharonville stop would be the place to go” for residents of surrounding communities and people living in Butler and Warren Counties. It certainly would be more accessible for them than near downtown Cincinnati, he said.

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