Linking Ohio through the power of rail
Imagine traversing the state of Ohio with an array of high-speed trains
connecting Cincinnati to Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland at speeds of up
to 110 miles per hour (mph) within the next 10 – 15 years. That's the
goal of All Aboard Ohio
a non-profit advocacy group working to establish a modern,
consumer-focused, statewide passenger transportation network that
provides Ohioans with safe, efficient and cost-effective travel choices.
goals set by All Aboard Ohio include reintroducing rail transit between
Ohio’s three major metropolitan areas. Dubbed the 3-C Corridor, the
new transportation route is part of the Ohio Hub
plan and would impact nearly two-thirds of Ohio’s sizable population
with an alternative, cost-effective and speedy mode of transport
connecting the state's Northeast and Southwest corners.
present time, Ohio is moving forward with its plans as the U.S.
Department of Transportation (DOT) outlines the details of its new
passenger and high-speed rail development program. Initially funded by $8 billion from the
stimulus, it will undergo review by Congress. President Obama has since proposed $1 billion per year for
high-speed rail development in his transportation budget.
Ohio DOT is moving forward with a study by Woodside Consulting Inc.
that will simulate railroad traffic flows along the 3-C Corridor, and it
plans to apply for stimulus funding for the Corridor as soon as
that study is complete (expected in July). If ODOT wins a stimulus grant, Ohio law requires that a supermajority vote
(5-2) of the State Controlling Board be given before funds are used to
acquire property for any rail project.
Ohio has a population density greater than that of the country of France, though 8.5
percent of its households live without a car, with the greatest proportion located in urban centers like Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Additionally another 13 percent of Ohioans are over the age of 65. As
baby boomers continue to age, that number is expected to grow to 20
percent of the state’s population by 2030. Ken Prendergast, executive
director of All Aboard Ohio, says that when you combine those two
demographics, you have about a third of the state’s population in need
of a long-distance transportation alternative to the automobile.
imagines the 3-C Corridor starting out with eight to ten daily round
trips traveling between Cincinnati and Cleveland at average speeds of 80 mph, resulting in a one-way trip time of 3 hours and 15 minutes (compared to roughly 4
hours by automobile).
In addition to the time savings, riders
would also benefit from cost savings. AAA estimates that a typical
sedan costs $0.70 per mile to operate, whereas the average Amtrak ticket
cost in the Midwest weighs in at only $0.15 per mile. With this
existing pricing model, a rail trip between Cincinnati and Columbus would
cost a passenger just under $40 round trip.
Potential station locations are currently being discussed. In Cincinnati, a recent study has demonstrated that although Union Terminal
is now one of the busiest freight yards in the nation, routing
passenger rail service there would be tricky because there are no remaining
right-of-way rails for additional traffic. Further, building additional rail
lines could be costly.
Prendergast suggests a less expensive alternative could include an eastern approach that would utilize the existing Oasis Line
. This route would require track upgrades but would improve track reliability and speed as well as reduce initial start up costs. A station could then be located near the Montgomery Inn Boathouse or even the underused Riverfront Transit Center
if it is determined that the facility could support such a system.
approach to implementing this type of high-speed rail system in
Ohio will be similar to the approach used elsewhere throughout the
country. The furthest along in the process is California, where state
leaders have systematically invested in their rail infrastructure in order to
provide the necessary upgrades for high-speed rail service of up
to 110 or 120 mph.
In Ohio, travelers will initially see a system
with peak speeds of 80 mph, due to regulations that require signals to be in place for any system that travels over that speed. Prendergast calculates that starting at lower speeds will reduce start-up
costs from an estimated $2 billion to the current $250 million proposal
on the table.
In Illinois, the state transit system is currently
running five daily round trips at an average speed of 79 mph. The state is
in the process of increasing that service to eight daily round trips at
top speeds of 110 mph. “They’ve spent hundreds of
millions of dollars already and built up a track record with the feds,”
In the end, the high-speed rail service could
dramatically change the way Ohioans move and live their lives. “If
it’s part of an overall transportation system that include buses, light
rail, intercity trains and streetcars that connect Ohioans to airports
and job centers as a whole network, it will be attractive to young
people and our city centers will be much more dynamic,” asserts Prendergast.
Prendergast goes on to say that this is something
that will help connect the poor and working class to an affordable
means of quick and reliable transportation that has not existed here
before. Additionally, Ohio's economy and environment will benefit from
the reduction in automobile traffic while making the state more
attractive to talent seeking transportation alternatives.
need to do this in Ohio to keep our cities vibrant. Otherwise more than
a third of our population will be left out," says Prendergast.