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Ohio Hub/Midwest Regional Rail/ORDC

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One of the interesting things VIA Rail Canada does is to run some of their trains through Toronto to serve suburban stations on the opposite side of the city. While the goal is to increase the access points to the intercity trains, it also has the effect of offering additional commuter/regional rail service in Metro Toronto. The latter benefit is enhanced by VIA honoring GO Transit tickets on those suburban segments.

 

Noozer mentioned California, where Amtrak honors Metrolink tickets for travel within metro LA on Amtrak trains. In fact, the first "commuter trains" in LA were Amtrak trains, including a short-hop train that only went as far south as San Juan Capistrano (I believe) on the route toward San Diego (which now has 13 weekday round trips on it, not including another dozen or so Metrolink commuter trains!).

 

Going back to the Toronto experience, consider how it could work in Cleveland. A train from Chicago doesn't end at Cleveland, and instead becomes a commuter/regional train to Akron or possibly Canton. A 3-C Corridor train to Cleveland doesn't end at a North Coast Transportation Center and instead becomes a commuter/region train to Mentor. A train from Toronto pauses at downtown Cleveland before continuing on to Hopkins Airport and possibly Elyria (folks from Erie Pa or Ashtabula would like that, as they are often isolated by lake-effect snowstorms and there is lousy air service at Erie).

 

The end result is that if, say half of the proposed 5-8 daily round trips did this, the frequency of service in metro areas would greatly increase. And, it would allow the Ohio Rail Development Commission to tap federal transit funding that otherwise cannot be used for intercity rail. Until the federal government provides a capital program for intercity rail, this may be the only way we'll get federal dollars for the Ohio Hub system (unless someone like Steve LaTourette goes out and gets some earmarks for Ohio -- certainly not out of the realm of possibility).

 

KJP

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Oh, this is great!  I love this conversation and I, like many of you, have been having it for years!

 

By the way, at the last Convention Facilities Authority meeting, there was mention of the CC expansion over the tracks including accommodations for a future high-speed rail/multimodal facility...

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... btw, similar to your SoCal example, when I used to commute from Baltimore to DC via MARC, Amtrak honored weekly/monthly MARC passes during times, specifically, when MARC was not running (late evenings, all weekend) with the commuter a "step up" on Amtrak during those periods (a buck or 2, as I recall).  Of course, given the long distance nature of Amtrak, only a few of the many MARC stations were served by Amtrak... I think the same system is used on the VRE in N. Virginia out of D.C. ... bottom line is, given the frequency and quality of AMTRAK service being proposed for our area (which is not unlike what already exists in the D.C. area, particularly in the NEC), it's hard to see how commuter rail wouldn't be a key part of the Cleveland equation.  We'd have to be reeeallly anti rail to fumble that ball...

 

... that said, given our region's sorry, conservative approach to rail expansion evidenced in the past (most recently exhibited by the Kucinich "agreement" and Bath/Portage county opposition to the Cleve-Akron-Canton commuter rail proposal), I wouldn't put anything (negative) past our region -- and, for the rest of Ohio, for that matter (just ask our Cincinnati neighbors yearning for light rail about that one).

 

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That's one reason why we, as advocates, must sell the concept of passenger rail as an economic development and job creation tool.  Show people and communities how they will benefit in dollars and cents and they will support the plan.  That's one reason why the Ohio Hub Plan has met with uniformly positive response all over the state .... even in Cincinnati.  At the public meeting in Cincy, the Hamilton County Engineer ... who had previously opposed the light rail levy... stood up and emphatically supported the Hub Plan on the basis of the economic impact as well as how it would reduce the load on local highways (by promoting the growth of rail capacity for not only passengerservice, but for handling more freight.).  To have someone like this stand uyp in support was nothing short of a shock ... a very good shock... but still a shock.

 

The social benefits of passenger rail will always be there.... traffic decongestion, cleaner air, greater mobility for everyone, etc.  But ya gotta sell the idea on something more concrete.  If you read the full report on the Ohio Hub on ORDC's website ... www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/ ... you will see the economic impact numbers are very positive.

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NEWS                                         

OHIO RAIL

DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

 

50 W. Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215

(614) 644-0306 telephone or fax (614) 728-4520

http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                              Contact: Stu Nicholson

Date: September 7, 2005                                                                  (614)644-0513 

“Build It Now!”

New Report: Public Says Ohio Needs Better Passenger & Freight Rail For Greater Mobility, Economic & Job Development

 

(Columbus) --- Even before gasoline started pumping at better than $3 per gallon, Ohioans were making their voices heard loud and clear that they want more and better options to travel and ship by rail.  A new report just released by the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) underscores that public desire.

 

The report details the results of a series of statewide public meetings held by ORDC and local metropolitan planning organizations over the past year.  The report shows overwhelming support for the statewide rail plan detailed in ORDC’s Ohio & Lake Erie Regional Rail / Ohio Hub Plan. 

 

(The report can be accessed at the ORDC website: www.dot.oh.us/ohiorail/ )

 

“The public not only wants the option of having access to passenger rail for short to medium distance business and pleasure travel, “says ORDC Executive Director Jim Seney, “but they understand totally that investing in redeveloping and expanding Ohio’s overall rail system not only enables passenger rail but that greatly expanding the capacity for moving freight will help attract and grow both economic development and jobs.”

 

Seney says the strongest message from these public meetings was a strong sense of urgency about the need to advance the Ohio Hub Plan from the study stage to reality.  One suburban Cleveland Mayor put it bluntly, “This is the answer for Ohio’s Rust Belt.”  A Southwest Ohio County Engineer said, “We’re in a crisis right now. We need to be building this.”

Similar comments were heard all over the state: a clear recognition by a cross-section of business, government and community leaders and the general public that the Ohio Hub Plan is not only needed, but needs to be implemented, according to Seney.

 

The good news, according to Seney, is that this need is being recognized at the federal level for the first time.  Legislation that would establish a federal funding and development program is moving through both houses of Congress.  Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) has recently cosponsored Senate Bill 1516, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which was introduced by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MISS).  Meanwhile, Congressman Steve LaTourette is co-sponsoring HR 1631, which has very similar aims to the Senate bill.  Though the bills have some differences, Seney says he has told staff for both Senator DeWine and Congressman LaTourette that this legislation is “on the right track.”

 

 

(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 service, railroad grade crossing safety and rail travel & tourism issues. For more information about what ORDC does for Ohio, visit our website at http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/ )

 

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EcoCity Cleve's website has an Amtrak regional proposal to build a station across the street from Hopkins.  Does that make sense.  Wouldn't it be smarter to build a joint station just up the tracks with the Red Line?  There's a new TOD and parking garage going up their next year.  Why shouldn't Amtrak be a part of that -- passengers could simply transfer to the Rapid for a 2 min ride to directly inside the air terminal. 

 

It doesn't make sense, to me, to duplicate efforts with the proposed Amtrak station, especially given the fact that Amtrak passengers will need some form of ground transport (probably a shuttle van/bus) to reach the airport anyway... Are officials giving this any thought?

 

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Could you post the link on EcoCity's site where this appeared? I suspect it was a proposal I put forth a couple years ago.

 

The reason why a station immediately opposite SR237 from Hopkins' long-term parking deck is the best location is because an enclosed walkway above the highway can offer a number of benefits. Not only does it avail a secure parking area for the station, it provides a relatively climate-protected pedestrian link to the airport terminal, via the moving walkways that link the long-term parking deck to Hopkins' terminals. While it may sound like a long distance, an intercity rail station at that location is actually closer to the main terminal than the gates in Concourse D. And, the train station has more of the distance covered by walkways than does Concourse D.

 

An intercity rail station at the Brookpark Rapid station is complicated by the access tracks to/from Norfolk Southern's Rockport Yard, where there are numerous cross-over switches. While there is room on the east side of the mainline for putting a passenger train station platform, freight trains make back-and-forth switching moves on those tracks, blocking their use by passenger trains. Thus, the only place where a station could be put is between the RTA eastbound track and the westernmost NS mainline track. That is still a very heavily used freight track.

 

NS officials have told the ORDC that they wouldn't permit a station between Rockport Yard and Berea unless a passenger-only track is built for trains stopping at the station. Fortunately, there is room across from Hopkins' long-term parking deck to build a passenger-only track and a platform that's wide enough to drop an elevator shaft and stairwell onto it.

 

Even so, NS's preference is not to have a station within several route-miles of that area unless more tracks are built. That's a tough proposition, given the lack of lateral space to work with, but like I said, there is room for one additional track in that area. To add a second passenger-only track past Hopkins will require some significant capital dollars. But that would be a small part of the Ohio Hub's final price tag of about $3.2 billion.

 

Below is an updated version of my proposal for a Hopkins Airport station....

 

Hopkins%20HSR%20station2.jpg

 

That design was based on the high-speed rail station at Frankfurt Germany's international airport (seen across the main highway -- just like Hopkins' station would be in my proposal above)....

 

Frankfurt%20Airrail%20station%20construction.jpg

 

The Frankfurt airport station allows for structures to be built on top of it, like hotels, offices and conference centers. I did the same thing for my design, posted above....

 

Frankfurt%20Airrail%20station%20drawing.jpg

 

Here are alternate sites that could be built, with the one that's a little closer to Berea offering more room for a larger station, but loses the pedestrian access (the pedestrian link to Concourse D would no longer work in a post-9/11 world, since all security screening is preferred to be done at a centralized location)....

 

cle%20hopkins%20rail%20options.jpg

 

But, of course the ultimate intercity rail station for Hopkins would be if the airport terminal is built where the IX Center now stands. Hopkins officials acknowledge this is decades into the future....

 

cle%20hopkins%20new%20term-small.jpg

 

KJP

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Anyone who supports upgrading and expanding our rail system in the U.S., let your congressperson know today! See the urgent message below....  KJP

_______________

 

The full Senate may consider the Fiscal 2006 Transportation-Treasury-HUD appropriations bill, possibly as early as today or tomorrow.

 

Please give the following message to your senators, substituting your own words wherever possible.

 

Dear Senator X:

 

Please support the $1.45 billion for Amtrak that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved. Please oppose any efforts to reduce this level.

 

Equally important, please work to remove from the committee's bill its crippling, "micro-managing" language regarding sleeping and dining car services.

 

If it is essential to "legislate on an appropriations bill" on this matter, please use the moderate language from S. 1516, the bipartisan authorization bill that the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved July 28.

 

Go to http://www.senate.gov and select your state from the drop-down menu. Given the uncertain nature of floor action, contact should be by phone call, fax, or e-mail (U.S. mail is not fast enough in D.C., where all mail must be security-screened, causing delays of up to a month or more).

 

Also, be patient when contacting your Senators. Many offices are now bombarded with communications about the Supreme Court nomination. If you have a hard time getting through to your Senators' Washington, D.C. offices, try their local offices. Contact information for those offices is available on Senators' websites.

 

END

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Thanks for putting these threads together. BTW: The Final Report on the Public & Agency Input for the Ohio Hub Plan is available at http:/www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/

 

The previous post of an ORDC news release had an incomplete web address.

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I did that route for four years from UC to Cleveland and took the bus a couple times, but would LOVE to have had the option to take the train!  Those Greyhound trips caused me to swear the company off for the rest of my life...

 

This sounds like it might be a little bit out of range for some college kids (and much of the remainder of the population as well), but when you consider it as an alternative to driving or flying, issues of cost, convenience and time all start to get mixed up...what is it worth to each traveler???  I'd definitely do the train before flying and if my employer was paying for it, I'd do it every time!  That, and I don't have a car, so that leaves the bus and what did I say about that earlier???

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My thought is that it is, quite simply, out of range for anyone who has their own car, unless/until gas exceeds $4-6 per gallon.  Which is unfortunate.  I don't think it's going to change anyone's mindset unless there are clear personal benefits over the automobile.  The figures I saw as far as speed and projected price aren't going to make me forget my car and I hate driving more than a lot of people.

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I think the option will work its way into people's schemes.  For example, if you're doing a quick trip to Columbus for work and you want to do some work on your laptop along the way, you're not going to be able to drive.  Again, the issue of who's paying for it comes into play.  The Acela Express on the East Coast would probably have never come into existence if it wasn't for the fact that most of the people who take it probably aren't paying for it.  And some of the prices that people pay for business trips on airlines is just ridiculous... this will offer an alternative to that, even if it doesn't significantly cut into the number of drivers.

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It would help to know what the expected travel time between Cleveland and Cincy would be. If it's faster than driving (unlikely), that would help justify the $95 fare.

But who knows, maybe the ORDC has done research showing that people are willing to pay that rate -- it's unclear from the article. Certainly it would be within the range of business travelers, who could probably expense the trips anyway.

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Travel time to Cincinnati (downtown) from Cleveland (downtown) will be about 3.5 hours. Subtract about 15-20 minutes if you are boarding at a Cleveland southwest-suburban station at Brook Park/Hopkins Airport or at a Cincinnati north-suburban station at Sharonville/I-275.

 

I agree the fares are too high. But it's also important to note these facts:

> IRS just recalculated the cost of driving at 48.5 cents per mile (up from 40.5 cents) for business travel deductibility purposes;

> Airlines charge $600 to $800 round trip, even for advanced bookings, for flights between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati;

> Amtrak Acela Express' average fare is 50 cents per mile on the Northeast Corridor.

 

That being said, the general public falsely believes the only cost of driving is the cost of gas. Business travelers who must deduct their driving expenses know better because they have to deal with the real costs of driving all the time. To me, the ORDC has two choices:  expect to provide an operating subsidy to reduce train fares in recognition of imperfect information in the travel marketplace, or undertake a marketing campaign to get the general public to understand how much it really costs them to drive their cars.

 

KJP

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Does anyone know what's keeping the speeds down?  79-110 mph, I don't know, does that even qualify as officially "High-speed rail"?  To not offer a significanly shorter travel time probably hurts a lot, especially if the estimated times, as I assume, don't factor time needed to get to the departure point.  If it's going to be so expensive (for commonfolk looking for an alternative way to get around the state, anyway) at the very least I think it would help to offer to cut traveling times by more than 10-20%

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On the subject of fares, it's safe to say that marketing the Ohio Hub service will include such things as frequent rider fares, etc... so it won't necessarily be a flat rate.  This will help to generate more ridership.  It might even be possible to work out mutual agreements with local transit system to work out transfers.

 

On the speed... 80-110 mph is still a lot faster (legally) than you can travel on any road in Ohio or the US.  While not "high speed" in the classic sense, it is still more than competitve with the automobile. And, as several have already pointed out, what used to be "driving time" would then become "productive time" that you can spend doing work, making calls, prepping for a meeting, drinking coffee or whatever... and once you get to your destination you do not have the added costs of parking your car.

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"High speed" is often a relative term, but my experience is that high speed rail service is offered when train speeds reach or exceed 125 mph. But is a service really high speed if that 125 mph threshhold is achieved on, let's say 10 miles of a route, and the other 200 miles offers only 79 mph? My contention is that "high speed" should be judged on average speeds over an entire route, which is what really matters to the customer. Ironically, I've never seen a consensus in the rail community as to what average speeds should be considered "high speed." For the Ohio Hub, an average speed of 80 mph is the goal. The distance by rail to Cincinnati is 260 miles. An average speed of 80 mph gets you there in 3.25 hours.

 

To answer your question, Matches, about what is keeping the speed down -- the answer is money and the lack of a public constituency for rail.

 

To exceed 90 mph requires building passenger-only tracks, but can be built next to existing freight rail rights of way (as long as the center line of the passenger-only track is no closer than 25 feet of the center line of the nearest freight track). Full-closure crossing gates can be used where moderate to light vehicular traffic crosses the railroad. But, where vehicular traffic is heavier, or there are bad sight lines for motorists, then a grade-separated crossing is probably advisable.

 

To exceed the 110 mph threshhold requires road crossings to be grade-separated or closed. There are more than 200 grade crossings between Cleveland and Cincinnati, more than 250 between Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh and 300+ between Cleveland and Chicago. To grade-separate a crossing typically costs $3 million for a rural crossing and $7 million or more for an urban crossing. In other words, the price tag jumps by an order of magnitude when the 110 mph threshhold is exceeded.

 

If train speeds in excess of 125 mph are desired, now we're likely talking electrified trains on private right of way (ie: not adjacent to existing freight tracks). That's no so much because freight railways are curvacious, but because they typically slice right through the center of small towns and cities that will not be served by high-speed trains, so there's no reason to enter them. It will likely cost less to go around them. So now you've got costs that include intensive environment impact studies, wetland remediation, property acquisitions, earthmoving/grading/leveling, track construction, erecting overhead electric catenary wires, etc. Such costs could range from $25 million per mile in level, open country, to $85 million per mile in hilly or urban settings.

 

If we ever get to that point, we might as well build for something between 150-200 mph. But, we've tried that before and failed. The countries that have succeeded in doing that evolved to that point. They had conventional-speed trains that offered 70-100 mph service, and upgraded their infrastructure from that starting point. Keep in mind that only one-third of France's TGV network uses the newly built, 170-mph+ rights of way. Those are trunk routes that spread outward from Paris. Farther out, TGV trains branch out onto old lines that already offered 100 mph+ services, while others were upgraded to enable 135-mph speeds.

 

Start slow so we can build up the constituency and the market for more improvements, faster speeds and more trains. It's going to take decades for this nation to catch up to the rest of the modern world. If we throw a high-speed rail route (requiring 5-10 million riders per year to support it) into a auto-centric place like Ohio, I believe it will fail. Our cities lack the population densities and the ridership sources that high-quality urban transit systems feed to/from high-speed rail systems. But a lesser intensive rail service, starting with several 79 mph trains (ridership of 300,000 per year or so), and build it up to 110 mph (ridership of 1-2 million), then we'll be ready to join the rest of the world.

 

KJP

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Something else I've noticed that might help ridership of a high-speed link between really cities anywhere in the U.S. would be to have a strong rail system within the city in place. I know when I was in Germany you could get to the bigger suburbs via the Hauptbahnhof either by local, commuter rail type trains or smaller EMU S-bahn trains. Then you can feed the main train station with traffic and for the passenger it couldn't be any easier than to just switch trains. I remember stuff like this being in place in some of the smaller cities too. It's certainly going to take a lot of work to get a system like that put in but the local connections are something that jet transportation can't easily supply.

 

Couldn't the profits of such a system pooled with other cities help pay for the advancement of HSR? I'd imagine it'd take some money to set up the commuter system, but many areas already have freight lines that could carry the low-speed traffic.

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It wasn't widely publicized, but there was a webcast today of the U.S. House Railroad Sub-Committtee hearing on Hr-1630 and HR 1631, and chaired by Ohio Cong. Steve LaTourette (a co-sponsor of both bills.  Testimony was very supportive of both passenger rail and of investing more federal dollars in our overall rail infrastructure.

 

FYI....  HR 1630 is a first-ever multi-year funding and reform package for Amtrak, which LaTourette says will finally allow Amtrak to develop and properly run a national passenger rail system.

 

HR 1631 is a bill that would establish a long-term federal funding mechanism (again for the first time) for regional rail projects such as the Ohio HUb.  It sets up the same kind of 80%-20% federal/state funding split that exists for highway and aviation projects.  This goes a long way toward balancing our transportation system.

 

That said, I would still feel much better if there was an effort by Congress to establish an overall national transportation policy, which might finally put an end to not only a grossly unbalanced transportation system that leaves us highly dependent on oil and gasoline, but perhaps eliminate the kind of "pork barrell" transportation projects like the "bridge to nowhere"  in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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I agree, and today I heard on CNN that some yahoos in Congress are looking to balance the federal budget on the backs of discretionary programs like Amtrak. Uh, OK....

 

> we're spending $270 billion in Iraq (at least in part because of our addiction to oil);

 

> our airlines are bleeding money and had to be bailed out after Sept. 11 and may require their pension funds to be bailed out by the feds (at least in part because airlines depend on fuel-inefficient short-haul flights as sources of passenger traffic);

 

> many died in New Orleans because they had no way to get out of town;

 

> oh, and by the way, the only alternative for millions of motorists to avoid paying the rising costs of fuel is to not travel at all, thereby hurting the economy and reducing tax collections.....

 

So here's a great idea: let's cut funding for a fuel-efficient, intercity mode of public transportation that has widespread public support and, if funding were INCREASED, can become part of the solution to the above problems that are causing the federal budget deficit to swell and the economy to begin sputtering.

 

Some of these pig fuckers in Congress couldn't spell IQ if you spotted them the I and the Q!

 

KJP

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Spoke to a U.S. Senate staffer today involved in the effort to pass SB-1516, the Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act, which was introduced by Sen. Trent Lott and is rapidly gaining co-sponsors, including Sen. Mike DeWine.  They are wanting to enlist Sen. Voinovich's support as a co-sponsor.  If you have any contact with Sen. Voinovich, let his staffers know that you want him to step up as a co-sponsor.  But the key to getting him to support it is to push this bill on the basis of what it can do for economic development and jobs, as Sen. V is not going to support this on the basis of people wanting to ride trains.

 

Investment in both passenger and freight is well proven to have a significant impact on economic development, especially around station stops and the surrounding neighhborhoods.  But having fast, efficient passenger rail also enhances a city's ability to attract new business and jobs.  Investments in freight rail infrastructure also bring in greater devlopment and jobs, either through expansion of existing businesses or attracting new ones. 

 

Momentum is building in Congress for transportation alternatives that save gasoline, reduce oil consumption and reduce traffic congestion, but it's the angle of jobs and economic development that will sell the idea best.  Please call or e-mail Senator Voinovich's office this coming week and let your feeling be known.  You can get in touch through the U.S. Senate website.

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(From a news release by the Ohio Rail Development Commisssion) 

http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/

 

(Columbus) – The state-owned railroad line known as “The Panhandle Line” will remain so for the foreseeable future.  In an 8 to 0 vote, with one member absent, ORDC Commissioners decided to postpone the proposed sale of the rail line, which has been owned by the State of Ohio since 1992.  It was purchased at the urging of local communities and businesses in order to save the rail line from what amounted to a piecemeal abandonment by then-owner Conrail. The line is now operated under a lease agreement with the Coshocton-based Ohio Central Railroad.

 

Several commissioners expressed concern that the timing of a sale may not be good at a time when funding for rail infrastructure at the federal level is unresolved.  Commissioner Tom McOwen cited the attention now being drawn to the nation’s need for better railroads in the wake of the recent Gulf hurricanes and big increases in oil and gasoline prices.  “This has drawn attention to the value of our rail infrastructure and the fuel efficiency of moving more freight and people by rail like no other time in our history. We have to be careful how we go about doing anything that has to do with our rail infrastructure.”

 

“This subject has pre-occupied the Commission and its staff for some time”, said Commission Chairman James Betts, who asked for and received the motion to “postpone indefinitely” the proposal to sell the rail line.  In doing so, Betts said this decision does not eliminate the future possibility of selling the line and recognized that staff time in preparing a sale proposal has not been wasted.

 

“We now know better the value of what we have in the Panhandle Line should this Commission decide at some future point to reconsider a sale,” said ORDC Executive Director Jim Seney. 

 

 

 

“The hard work of the ORDC staff will still be useful if that day comes.”  Seney pointed out that the line has not only shown a good return in terms of growth of business and freight traffic, but holds significant value for the future as a right of way as well for fiber-optics and broadband Internet services.  ORDC is also interested in the line for possible future passenger rail service that could help create a Pittsburgh-Columbus-Lima-Fort Wayne-Chicago route under its Ohio Hub regional rail plan.

 

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I'm surprised and disappointed. I saw this as an opportunity to use sale proceeds to help preserve and eventually revitalize endangered rights of way elsewhere in the state. Once revitalized, they too could be sold like the Panhandle at higher values to knock down ever-larger barriers to the Ohio Hub. But that's just my thought....

 

KJP

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I had hopes too.  But from what I can tell, the decision not to sell was in part due to opposition from shipping interests along the line, mainly in the Newark area.  Their fear was that turning the system over to the Ohio Central Railroad would create a monopoly on service and raise rates.  But that's a pretty weak argument, since the proposed sale would have allowed entry onto the line by other railroads with unit trains or through trains, and I would doubt the Ohio central would raise rates and force business on to trucks.

 

The good news is that either way, the line remains open for passenger service at some point.

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Stand by for some good news.  I have it on good authority that one of the major railroads has officially thrown it's support behind the Ohio Hub Plan and a second railroad is about to.  This is important, because both railroads plan to make this part of their lobbying efforts in Washington, which will help in getting legislation moved forward on establishing a federal funding program for state-sponsored regional rail plans.  What they like about the Ohio Hub Plan in particular is that the stand to benefit, because infrastructure improvements that would be made to acommodate passenger rail would also enable greater capacity for the railroads to move freight and reduce or eliminate both key rail bottlenecks and interference between passsnger & freight traffic.

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Let me guess. The first railroad is CSX and the second, which will announce soon, is NS. Correct? Actually, CSX's letter didn't sound like a ringing endorsement. But any expression of support from CSX is certainly welcome.

 

I think you will like the next issue of the OARP/All Aboard Ohio newsletter. The centerspread is about the worsening rail freight traffic congestion problem, why it is happening, why the freight railroads can't deal with it on their own, how it is affecting the economy, and what can/should be done about it.

 

KJP

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I thought you guys might want to read a local perspective.  This is an editorial from the 10/2/05 Newark Advocate:

 

 

State on track with Panhandle inaction

 

For now, the state will not sell the Panhandle Rail Line. That's good news, certainly, but who knows how long that good news will last?

 

Thursday, the Ohio Rail Development Commission voted unanimously to postpone indefinitely any decision to sell the state-owned rail line, which runs from Columbus through Licking County to Mingo Junction. Commission Chairman James Betts said the inaction "could mean 100 days. That could mean 100 years."

 

Read more at:

 

http://www.newarkadvocate.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051002/OPINION01/510020320/1014/NEWS01

 

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The most important ong-term plus of the state continuing to own the Panhandle is that it preserves the right to run passenger trains between Columbus and Pittsburgh.  That assumes that the connection can be restored between Mingo Junction on the Ohio River and downtown Pittsburgh.  The Ohio Rail Development Commission is currently studying a Pittsburgh-Columbus-Lima-Fort Wayne-Chicago route as part of its Ohio Hub regional rail plan.

 

Of course the potential for passenger rail on the Panhandle would have been preserved regardless of whether the line was sold or not, as that provision was addressed by ORDC selling only the tracks and fixtures along the rail line and retaining ownership of the land.l

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I dunno. I'm just worried about a half-dozen or so rights of way around the state that are threatened, and should be preserved for the Ohio Hub. Most of the rights of way are in Northeast Ohio, and of those, a good percentage are in the Youngstown area. Selling the Panhandle would have given the ORDC some resources to help preserve these rights of way:

 

> Cleveland East 26th Street Yard

> Ravenna Connection --- pair of 1-mile track connections NS/CSX

> Freedom Secondary --- Ravenna - Leavittsburg - Warren - Girard - Youngstown

> Randall Secondary --- Cleveland - Aurora - Garrettsville - Leavittsburg

> Lake Erie & Eastern --- Girard - Youngstown - Struthers

> Pittsburgh & Lake Erie --- Youngstown - Struthers - New Castle

 

A few others...

 

> Columbus Grandview Yard

> NS (former PRR/Conrail) --- Columbus - Hilliard

> Camp Chase Industrial --- Columbus - Camp Chase - London - Springfield

> Erie RR/Conrail/NS 2nd track --- Springfield - Fairborn - Dayton

> NS mixed sections --- Sharonville, Winton Place (Cincinnati area)

 

Sounds like ORDC ought to engage a consultant for a reasonable rate to do an inventory of these rights of way, including existing conditions, estimated property values, threats and opportunties. I know a new nonprofit consulting entity....NEOtrans something...

 

KJP

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I read this earlier today and Morris is right on target.  Yet we have a President who wants to cut passenger trains and underfunds mass transit: the two modes that can move the greatest amount of people in mass. The Administration's answer: drive less and drive slower.  Well they sure did that trying to exit Houston, Galveston, New Orleans and Biloxi.

 

Despite this, legislation is moving through both Houses of Congress that would help remedy the very imbalance Morris rightly points out in our transportation system. If only we can get it passed with a veto-proof and bipartisan majority.

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I am hearing from my sources today that SB-1516 (The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act), which was introduced by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) is expected to come up for a floor vote this Fall.  It could be late Fall, but the fact this bill apprently has some stronger than expected legs and is making progress is a significant development.  But we need to get Sen. Voinovich on board as a co-sponsor.  This type of legislation can have a huge impact on Ohio, not only in terms of greater mobility, but also in terms of creating more economic development and jobs in Ohio.

 

 

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Not a peep about Campbell's endorsement of HSR. I've learned the PD doesn't care much for her. I understand that this article was written a long time ago, and that James Ewinger has taken over the transportation beat from Rich Exner. KJP

______________

 

http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/1128850725291450.xml&coll=2

 

Backers of high-speed rail growing more optimistic

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rich Exner

Plain Dealer Reporter

 

The map seems logical. And thought of renewing an old form of travel with a modern twist is intriguing.

 

Hop on a train in Cleveland and shoot off to places like Columbus, Detroit, Pittsburgh or Toronto at 110 mph. You'd be in Columbus, for example, in one hour and 38 minutes. It would take around four hours to get to Chicago.

 

The idea, in various forms, has lingered for decades. But now, in part because of interest from Congress and isolated successes of similar routes across the country, train advocates are singing an optimistic tune for a high-speed rail system that could make Cleveland a hub.

 

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Yeah... not a bad story, but it could have been stronger.  Made no mention either of the ORDC report that showed very strong public support for the Ohio Hub plan. 

 

Exner is moving on to an editor's job at the P-D.  Spoke to him about it a couple of weeks ago, and it's a good move for him.  Exinger will be the new transportation guy at the P-D.

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