I have been falling behind lately. Here is an item I should have moved to the front a few weeks ago. Please keep your regional news items coming.
Ohio Can Benefit From Just-Passed Rail Bill
HR-2095 Boosts Both Rail Safety & Passenger Rail
Passage of a major rail safety and passenger rail bill is a very important and positive first-step toward moving people and freight in Ohio better, faster and safer. HR-2095, a comprehensive railroad safety and passenger rail bill was passed by a veto-proof 74-24 margin in the U.S. Senate last week and awaits President George W. Bush’s signature.
“At a time when Ohioans most need relief from high gas prices, the passage of this bill has the potential to create critically-needed transportation options for individuals and business in Ohio”, says Governor Ted Strickland.“ Further developing passenger rail can help Ohio families save money while at the same time addressing crucial issues such as climate change and the need to reduce our dependence on oil.”
Ohio Rail Development Commission Executive Director Matt Dietrich calls the bill “a major boost for rail safety and the advancement of passenger rail and right in line with the collaborative efforts of both ORDC and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to better balance Ohio’s transportation system.”
The ORDC is currently working on two passenger rail initiatives:
•The Ohio Hub: the State of Ohio’s long-range, high-performance passenger rail plan that calls for 110 mph trains in seven corridors. The plan carries a potential economic impact of over $17-billion dollars to Ohio and the region, as well as the creation of over 16,700 new jobs when fully implemented.
•Amtrak 3-C Corridor: ORDC is also working with Amtrak on Governor Strickland’s request to explore establishing conventional passenger rail service in the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati corridor. Amtrak’s planning staff is preparing to survey the corridor and develop a ridership and revenue report.
Provisions of HR-2095
The bill provides $13.1-billion over five-years for Amtrak and development of high-performance passenger rail corridors by the states. It marks the first time Amtrak has been funded on a multi-year basis in its 37 year history. This can allow Amtrak to plan for new and better services. Ohio is currently served by three Amtrak long-distance routes.
Included in the $13.1-billion authorization is a first-ever, $1.9-billion federal matching grant program for states to develop innovative new services, increase capacity on heavily used rail lines, and attract new riders. ORDC’s Ohio Hub Plan would be an eligible project under this program. Under the program, the state would have to match an 80-percent federal funding with 20-percent of state and local dollars.
Other passenger rail provisions include:
•High-Speed Rail Corridors: Grants are provided to plan and develop 11 federally-designated high-speed rail corridors. The Federal Railroad Administration has previously designated the 3-C Corridor as well as the Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland and Chicago-Cincinnati corridors as future high-speed rail corridors. Also included is an extension of Pennsylvania’s “Keystone Corridor” from Pittsburgh to Cleveland.
•On-Time Performance: DOT and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) must investigate Amtrak delays and determine if they are the fault of the host railroad. If so, host rail carrier may be ordered to pay Amtrak monetary damages.
HR-2095 would also require installation of positive train control (PTC) by Dec. 31, 2015, on all main-line tracks where intercity passenger and commuter railroads operate, and where toxic-by-inhalation hazmat is transported. This provision follows the recent, tragic and fatal collision of a commuter and freight train in California. PTC would automatically stop trains from entering on to a track with another on-coming train.
Quick Ohio Rail Facts:
Ohio ranks 5th in total railroad miles (5,275 miles) in the United States and is served by 36 railroads including three Class-1 carriers. In 2006, almost 67-million tons of rail freight originated in Ohio and over 100-million tons of rail freight terminated here.
Amtrak serves Ohio with three long-distance trains:
• The Capitol Limited (daily Chicago-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Washington, D.C.)
• The Cardinal (tri-weekly Chicago-Cincinnati-Washington, D.C.-New York)
• The Lake Shore Limited (daily Chicago-Cleveland-Buffalo-Boston/New York)
In 2007, over 110-thousand boardings and alightings were made at Ohio Amtrak stops.
The last train to serve Columbus was Amtrak’s National Limited on October 1, 1979.
(The Ohio Rail Development Commission is an independent agency operating within the Ohio Department of Transportation. ORDC is responsible for economic development through the improvement and expansion of passenger and freight rail services and railroad grade crossing safety. For more information about what ORDC does for Ohio, visit our website at http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/)