Amtrak expansion here would depend on Ohio taking action

So Amtrak may build a railroad and pay for it too?

It doesn’t get any better than that.

At least for those who have, for years, been seeking better passenger rail in Ohio.

Word that Amtrak is considering passenger rail expansion on five routes in Ohio, two of which include Cincinnati, has rail advocates more hopeful than they’ve been in a long time.

And with Joe Biden — someone who famously rode the rails from his Delaware home to Congress — now in the White House, there is optimism.

Amtrak representatives have reportedly met with leaders in cities where they plan to expand services. The goal is to pursue passenger rail expansion on five routes, using 100% federal funds.

The five new routes are:

· Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (3C) Corridor: three daily round trips with intermediate station stops.

· Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago: four daily round trips with intermediate station stops.

· Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit-Pontiac (Mich.): three daily round trips with intermediate station stops.

· Cleveland-Buffalo-Albany-New York: two daily round trips with intermediate station stops.

· Cleveland-Pittsburgh-New York: one daily round trip with intermediate station stops via an extension of Keystone Corridor train service.

The expansion would depend on support from Congress and the Biden Administration, as well as from Ohio policy makers, says All Aboard Ohio.

Ohio’s General Assembly will soon be reviewing the Ohio Department of Transportation’s biennial budget, which must be approved this spring. Ohio legislators need to authorize the development of federally compliant corridor plans in order to reach a contract with Amtrak, the rail advocacy group says.

“If it doesn’t, Ohioans may have to wait another two years for the next ODOT budget before any progress can begin,” the group says.

Once an agreement is in place with the state entity, Amtrak may pay up to 100% of the capital costs to initiate new or additional services, the group says. Amtrak may also provide 100% of the operating costs in the first two years, 90% in the third year, 80% in the fourth year and 50% in the fifth year.

“It’s time for Ohio — the nation’s most populous state without a passenger rail program — to finally step up,” the group says.

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading, or watching classic movies.