COLUMBUS, Ohio — All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Stu Nicholson has tried to revive passenger rail in Ohio for decades.
Recently, Amtrak reached out to state leaders and the Biden administration in hopes of expanding passenger rail services and creating a new five route corridor.
“Amtrak is coming in and saying, we'll pay 100% of this. We don't have to go down and beg and plead with the Ohio General Assembly. I really kind of look upon what Amtrak is doing, at least and so far as the 3-C corridor is concerned is that it's a vindication of what we found out, what we were planning,” Nicholson said.
The 3-C corridor Nicholson is talking about would connect Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, running three times a day.
The four other routes include Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and New York.
President Joe Biden, who is a long-time Amtrak commuter, has shown his support of passenger rail.
The US House passed a rail funding program last year, but the measure didn't pass the Senate.
Amtrak's newest proposal calls for a 5 year, $25 billion spending plan that covers the cost of trains, equipment and other starting costs.
Over time, operation costs would shift back to the states.
Nicholson said in Central Ohio, where the population is expected to hit 3-million by 2050, many millennials are looking for alternative transportation.
“What I hear most from millennials is that I want to be able to travel and I don't want to feel like I have to drive. And if it's a short enough distance where flying is non-existent or prohibitively expensive, people want to have that option,” Nicholson said.
Amtrak officials said frequent and reliable corridor routes of less than 500 miles continue to grow in popularity.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari released the following statement:
“We are working with our state partners, local officials and other stakeholders to understand their interests in new and improved Amtrak service and will be releasing that plan soon. We will call on Congress to authorize and fund Amtrak’s expansion in such corridors by allowing us to cover most of the initial capital and operating costs of new or expanded routes,” Magliari said.
Locally, the Ohio General Assembly will review the state's transportation budget, which needs to be approved by spring. If a corridor plan is not reached with Amtrak, the project may have to wait for two years or more.
The Ohio Rail Development Commission spokesperson Wende Jourdan recently released a statement saying in part:
“Currently, the role of the state in the plan is not clear and we are not aware of any needed action by Ohio at this time. We look forward to hearing more about what Amtrak’s proposal could mean to Ohio as the federal transportation bill advances through that process,” Jourdan said.
Nicholson said he knows it's a process.
But he said if Congress gives the green light, an 80 mph passenger rail system could be a reality within four to five years and bring with it thousands of jobs across Ohio.
“This is not a partisan type of package. This is important in terms of job development, economic development, workforce development,” Nicholson said.