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Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

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[note: cvsr's projects a station on Canal Rd. near TC's amphitheater.  KJP had suggested, and I had hoped, trains would rise from this right of way into TC's indoor parking lot to allow for a better connection with Public Sq and the Rapid Lines -- but Canal Rd. would be a start]

 

COOL CLEVELAND BLOG CVSR response: 

 

On finishing the Scenic Railroad (See Scenic rail from Tower City to Akron here) Thanks for your recent story on extending Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) excursion rail service into downtown Cleveland. CVSR President/CEO Doug Cooper, staff, and trustees are redoubling their efforts to make this a reality by 2008. In conjunction with the Towpath Trail's pending downtown extension and possible Tower City area convention center, CVSR is very excited about someday linking downtown Cleveland with the nation's 3rd most highly visited national park. Once CVSR's downtown station opens on Canal Road near Tower City's Amphitheatre, the railroad will provide easy access to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and ski areas for residents, tourists and cyclists from across Greater Cleveland. The terminal's proximity to the nexus of the region's entire public transportation system will be especially important for those who choose not to or don't drive autos (e.g. the very old, the very young, the transit dependent, and those wanting to save money). Furthermore, numerous other attractions in Cleveland, Akron and Canton will be opened up by the railroad such as the Metroparks in three counties and the Rock & Roll, Inventor's and Football halls of fame. CVNP, Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association, Ohio and Erie Canal Association, Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, Forest City Enterprises and Heidtman Steel have emerged as CVSR's principal partners in this effort. Through CVNP, CVSR has contacted trackage owner CSX to start exploring the technical feasibility of the extension. This Fall, with help from the Ohio Rail Development Commission, CVSR is planning a meeting with CSX to learn whether it believes the project is financially. If so, a full court press will be needed across Northeast Ohio to establish the project's political feasibility and secure local and federal funding to begin the needed planning and engineering. That also includes identifying the funds needed to upgrade the track, build stations and pay for daily operations. With CSX approval, public awareness and political support will be crucial to the project's success. To that end CVSR has done several things. Over the past year it formed three advisory councils of local leaders, one each in Cleveland, Akron and Canton. It also launched its "All Aboard for Cleveland" (ABC) campaign. Part of the ABC campaign involves a powerpoint presentation on CVSR history and the extension that is given to local interest groups. And preparations are in full swing for CVSR's All Aboard Ball black tie fundraiser event on June 4, 2005 at Heidtman Steel in the Cuyahoga Valley. For more about CVSR visit http://www.cvsr.com. To schedule an ABC presentation, contact Doug Cooper at president@cvsr.com . And for tickets or information about the All Aboard Ball call 1.800.468.4070 ext. 3004. Again, thanks for the great story!

from Cool Cleveland reader Richard M. Enty, Chairman, CVSR Board of Trustees richard.enty@sbcglobal.net

 

 

 

 

 

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Wasn't Rich Enty the former RTA chief planner under Ron Tober?

 

Also, I saw when searching cvsr/commuter news, a poster on a railfan website had recently stated that he had it on good authority that Akron Metro RTA was "quietly" improving cvsr bridges and roadway in planning for eventual commuter rail.  Since the guy was merely a poster (like me) with no credentials or other evidence of credibility to buttress his statement, I didn't copy/post his message, but that would be interesting.

 

I think a decision/statement needs to made, once and for all, whether this extension will be simply an extension of the tourist line or an honest to goodness commuter rail system.  Cvsr, publicly at least, continues to insist they are dead set against commuter rail (yet, cryptically, they say on their website that using the expanded cvsr can remove drivers from traffic and stress -- something of a mixed signal, eh?).  Frankly, it's not worth public money to extend what would amount to a Cedar Point-type amusement ride if it is not going to also be used as a serious commuter rail operation.  I don't think families, pleasure riders, railfans, etc., really have any particular trouble driving down to Valley View to pick up the trains headed south as they have for decades.  Nor do I think having the tourist terminal in downtown Cleveland is going to cause people to flock downtown to board the trains or, vice versa, cause Akron/Canton people ride slow, scenic old trains into downtown in any appreciable numbers -- not for the high dollar and political costs involved in building the facilities and negotiating with the freight carriers to use/improve their rails for the extended service.

 

In that vein, if commuter rail is the goal, I think a determination must be made to route trains up the hill over Canal Rd and into Tower City's underground parking lot (where the old trains went) so COMMUTERS will be undercover and accessible to the short escalator or elevator rides into the mall/Rapid transit area/elevators to Public Sq. area.  Leaving COMMUTERS off at the river bed level near the TC amphitheater at a location where they will have to climb extensive outdoor steps or ride shuttle vans or buses up to the TC parking lot (which is how you have to access the amphitheater currently), is no way to build a commuter railroad.  If we're going to do this thing -- and Lord knows, this region is way behind the game in its total lack of commuter rail beyond the rapid -- let's do it right.

 

KJP, do you think you could have any influence in this matter?

 

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I think a decision/statement needs to made, once and for all, whether this extension will be simply an extension of the tourist line or an honest to goodness commuter rail system.

 

not so fast -- there is no need to rush and do that quite yet.

 

i say let the quiet momentum build. as long as things are happening, even be they minor, as long as there is movement, i wouldn't push it. let akron metro and cvsr work undercover for awhile longer for now!

 

maybe we all should just write or email akron metro and cvsr, tell them we are noticing this and "express support" for the time being?

 

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There is a public purpose for getting CVSR service to Tower City Center, even if it's geared toward transportation to/from the national park at the slow travel speeds you mention. Remember that the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the third-most visited park in the nation which, for the time being, means getting there mostly by car.

 

But, the environmental problems of auto-centric access to other popular national parks (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc) has been well documented. Do you think those parks would jump at the chance to have a rail serving it to reduce smog, restrict parking lots that have toxic water running off its pavement, and the like? Of course they would, and that's why Grand Canyon restored a rail line from Williams AZ (links to Amtrak) to the South Rim to help deal with some of these problems.

 

That's a rail line that serves but a small part of a huge national park. Here in Northeast Ohio, we have a rail line that runs the length of another large national park, with multiple stations serving multiple historic and natural sites -- all within walking distance of stations. Add to that the parallel Canal Corridor Trail and the CVSR's bike-carrying capabilities, and you've got the beginnings of creating a park that has superior access by environmentally friendly modes.

 

Then, at the northern end, you link the park's trains and trails to the main transit hub in a major city. With that, you can introduce a whole urban population -- especially for children but not exclusively for them -- to the wilderness and to historic locations that ultimately founded the basis for economic growth in Northeast Ohio. That's got to be an eye-opener for urban youth, many of whom sadly never venture beyond their neighborhoods.

 

If that isn't a public purpose that warrants public funding, I don't know what is. I don't if this is a problem or an asset, but it's almost impossible to put a price tag on that kind of benefit. It's a problem because some governmental types will want to see a qualitative cost-benefit analysis. But it's an asset because if something is so priceless, then it's got to have a tremendous value. And I think that's exactly what a CVSR link to Tower City will deliver.

 

KJP

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Imagine what an amenity it would be to live downtown and hop on the CVSR with your bike for a day of riding and exploring the valley without ever having to get into a car.

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All the more reason for FCE to build market-rate, high-rise housing around Tower City Center!

 

KJP

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mrnyc, I'm not rushing this.  I'm only reacting to a blog letter from Rich Enty, cvsr chair and ex-RTA-er, who mentioned a 2008 as a target date (and maybe there are a bunch of folks upset he’s let the cat out of the bag).  Obviously, much is going on positive behind the scenes already.  I'm just saying, if that truly is a goal -- which is exciting -- we might as well do it right esp if cvsr is going to raise funding sources to get this done and try and get our blowhard, do-nothing local rail officials and politicians on board  If this is, as we all hope, the match that could ignite commuter rail across NEO, then we should do all we can to assure that this project has be best change for success for we may not get another opportunity in the near future -- like, try, several decades.

 

... and to me, building a terminal along Canal Street along the river bottoms, distant and way below Tower City, isn't doing it right.  And you know how it goes around here, once we spend a bunch of money and things don’t necessarily go exactly as planned (see the Waterfront Line where we waited for nearly a decade after it opened -- until last Monday to be exact w/ Scott Wolstein -- to develop serious TOD near its tracks leading naysayers, since practically the day it opened, to call the rail line a “failure”), riders will drop off and it will be difficult to raise more money to do the terminal right -- that's all I'm saying.

 

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This appeared in RTA's latest press release:

 

After the regular meeting, the Board’s “Committee of the Whole” will meet with officials of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad to discuss a feasibility study to extend the railroad from Rockside Road to downtown Cleveland.

 

 

I'm glad this issue is on the table, but obviously its far from a done deal. That there going to discuss a "feasibility" study is ominous.  We all know about how Cleveland is apt to study and study and study good plans to death.  And we know this current RTA administration is none to excited to move on any rail project... So how best can we get this thing moved along? 

 

Ideas?

 

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so i went to this meeting today.  here are my summary points, which basically add up to "this is a long way away"

 

1) 8 mile extension along existing CSX track to downtown cleveland, estimated costs are $8-15m, depending on routing around active lines near SYC.  talk was about bringing this in below towercity.  there was some hope that the new start federal studies would not be necessary b/c track is already in place and service is running south.  if environmental studies, feasibility studies, etc., then will prolong process.

 

2) board is "excited"about prospect, but doesn't seem very forward thinking. It seemed that there was more of a "this is probably going to happen, akron meto did similar support, makes sense for us."

 

3) big concern about diluting funding for existing transit activities by diverting to this. 

 

4) no ultimate timeline for connection, except the LaTourette is chummy with CSX and has been helping them with anticipation that CSX will help CVSR when time is right for easements, right of way access to sections of rail.

 

5) and like any good RTA meeting, there were no action items or next steps discussed at the closing of the meeting - but plenty of newpaper reading and stupid jokes.   is there another presentation coming?  when will they vote on the proposed amendment language?  when do we hope to have this completed?  etc. etc.  Is this is a business spending tax dollars???  Sense of urgency about anything, anyone?

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First, to be eligible for federal funding, there almost always has to be a feasibility study (with alternatives reviewed) and an environment imact statement of some sort. Even if a waiver of a full-blown feasibility study (formally called a Major Investment Study) and of an EIS can be had, some analysis of the route will be required to please the federal purse string holders.

 

Second, no private business will be spending tax dollars. RTA is a public entity and CVSR is a nonprofit association. CSX is a private, for-profit corporation, but will not be spending tax dollars. Instead, their right of way will be the recipient of tax dollars, just as any regional commuter rail or Amtrak intercity rail project often requires public investment in private rights of way. No precedent is being set here.

 

RTA has lousy or nonexistent service to the Valley View area, to the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area and, even with some bus services rerouted, will have limited access to/from Steelyard Commons from downtown Cleveland and suburban areas farther south. If I was Valley View's mayor and I heard an RTA board member say a transit route (which is what this would really be) to their area was a diversion of RTA resources, I'd tell that RTA board member to shove it and even help him/her with the placement of said shoved item.

 

KJP

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KJP -

 

to clarify my point on "is this a business spending tax dollars?"

 

I was referring to the RTA as a whole, spending tax dollars, not the CSX component.  From the looks of RTA's operations and meetings, it is a far cry from the accountability and decorum that I would expect as a shareholder/stakeholder of a similar private business.

 

I understand limited funding and other related constraints, but i'd like to see these RTA meetings treated as more formal and serious events, perhaps reshowing them on public access as they do for many other public meetings (maybe they do, but i haven't seen them).

 

I wonder how many board meetings you could go to of fortune 2000 companies and see the board reading newspapers, taking extended bathroom breaks, text messaging, etc.  These aren't 4 hour marathon sessions - Tuesday's lasted less than 1 hour.

 

if we want a world class transit system, we should expect and hold these appointees to their job. 

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wow reading about that was just like watching an indians game -- hopeful, exciting & dissapointing all at the same time!

 

since it already involves cvsr, rta and akron metro maybe now is the time for another agency to be developed to handle this project. it could be a pilot or a precursor to future neorail commuter rail.

 

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I had a detailed response to urbanlife but, when you bump two keys together on your keyboard, the whole message gets highlighted and if you hit the spacebar before you realize what's happened, the message is gone. I will not type the same long message twice. This has happened to me a number of times!!!!

 

This forum desperately needs an "undo" feature for composing messages.

 

KJP

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There is another entity involved in this, at least from an advisory level:  The Ohio Rail Development Commission was asked last year to play a roll in the planning process and has done so since. They have helped take stock of the rail line, it's condition and what it would take to bring it up to the condtion necessary for regular service.  Don't forget that the CVSR runs through a major US park (Cuyahoga National Forest), and increasing the connections to that park and the area around it could be a project that could attract a federal earmark. 

 

I wouldn't read too much into GCRTA's "behavior" at the meeting, although I would characterize it (if accurate) as unprofessional and rude.  But they aren't going to sit up and pay attention until someone walks up with the right dollars and says "listen up."  I'm not surprised, as their hearts just are not into rail.  Their attendance and comments at the ORDC public meetings in Cleveland earlier this year showed they are skeptical of the Ohio Hub Plan, but I believe that arises more from their own lack of detailed knowledge of the plan.... in other words, they should have read it before opening their yaps.

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Not tonight, mrnyc baby, the Indians Rock!! are blowing out the ChiSox!! ... oh, 'scuse me... back to business...

 

Good info urbanlife and KJP.  Unfortunately it's making my blood boil, as well as noozer's last post.  Think about what an amazing thing you’re saying, noozer: a transit agency of a major metro city that has a rail system that's, yet, disinterested rail!!!!!  Can you say paradoxical?  Counterintuitive?  Ironic? ... I'm running out synonyms. (this is spoiling my good Indians mood)  I've never heard of such a thing -- even cities that struggle to get rail have transit agencies that, at least, push for it and are derailed (no pun intended) by local pols. It's downright despicable and really merits a serious investigation of RTA.  These guys should all be fired; they're not representing our interests as major city.

 

And don't expect our current, soon-to-be re-elected mayor, with her "yeah, whatever" stance on transit (on a lot of things) to say or do anything. 

 

It's downright embarrassing that little Akron Metro RTA is taking the lead on CVSR... they've extended the service all the way to Canton (what, some 25-odd miles?) and are helping build a multi-modal Amtrak, bus, CVSR depot... isn’t this extension, like ours planned, sending passenger cars over CSX working freight trackage?  Hmmm, seems like their purchase and operation over such rail wasn't the obstacle that our big, bad Cleveland RTA finds it... disgusting!  Noozer, you mentioned RTA’s aloof, even cavalier attitude about Ohio Hub rail… frankly, I’d keep these RTA bozos as far away from this promising initiative as possible.  You know CVSR isn’t going to be done right by them; if at all – like making sure that the downtown terminus isn’t at Tower City river level next to the nowheresville TC Amphitheater. 

 

This thing needs to be monitored closely.

 

 

 

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noozer does ordc have the authority and power to get the feds involved in this? it would be nice to get uncle sam to pay some of it. i'm not sure what authority ordc has to push this forward outside of doing some background research? seems like it's mostly in cvsr's hands. they have a park to run so i'm not sure that is the best way to get it done.

 

clvlndr 8-0? holy cow that was a big win after a tough loss!

 

 

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Actually, it's in RTA's hands (or the federal funds could be sought by NOACA -- after cold day in hell). As a nonprofit educational association, CVSR cannot be a project sponsor to get federal funding. They also don't run the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. That falls under the jurisdiction of the federal National Park Service.

 

KJP

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An update....  KJP

________________

 

Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2005

 

Today’s RTA Board meeting action

 

CLEVELAND – Here are the highlights of today’s meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

 

ON TRACK: The Board passed a resolution supporting the proposed 8-mile extension of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad from Independence to downtown Cleveland. The 26 miles of track now runs from Independence to Akron and Canton, through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is a private-sector, volunteer-supported, non-profit corporation, with more than 100,000 riders annually. Board members promised to work with federal, state and local groups to advance the project.

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I had a chance to talk with the President of the CVSR today and though he is pleased with the GCRTA's decision, it will still be at least a couple of years or more before CVSR trains begin running on this line.  A lot of track and signal work needs to be done, grade crossings, etc.  But, as I said in an earlier post, CVSR is getting assistance from the Ohio Rail Development Commission in planning how this new service will be accomplished.

 

That said, this project will be a great boost for both the CVSR and the Flats. :-D

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Noozer/KJP, do you see the extension actually happening? If so, exactly what role will Steelyard Commons play? I've heard they're contributing in some way -- but it seems most of the TIF money is going to the towpath trail. Haven't heard of any going to the railroad.

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Don't know what role the Steelyard Commons will have, but I can't believe there wouldn't be one.

 

I'm optimistic this project will happen.  It just makes good sense to connect two significant destinations like the Flats (along with downtown Cleveland) with the Cuyahoga National Forest. A tie-in with Steelyard Commons would only serve to enhance the project and provide another reason (and location) for people to ride the CVSR.

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I also believe this will happen. Estimated cost for track, signal and bridge improvements is $7 million. That will probably go up, especially if a Tower City station site at the same level as the Rapid tracks is desired. However, at least in the interim, a modest station platform next to the river, near the Cleveland Thermal plant, is envisioned.

 

Steelyard Commons has offered to build a station platform next to its development. I'll have more about this in Thursday's Sun papers.

 

KJP

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From the 10/22/05 Massillon Independent:

 

Riding the rails

Saturday, October 22, 2005

By DOUG STALEY

Doug.Staley@IndeOnline.com

 

First comes with the wail of the whistle echoing in the distance and, then, the earth-shaking rumble along the tracks.

 

The high-pitched squeal of brakes confirms the train’s arrival as it glides into a depot crowded with waiting passengers.

 

At the conductor’s signal, people begin boarding passenger cars for a trip through the countryside.

 

http://www.indeonline.com/left.php?ID=4519&r=0&Category=1

 

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Posting the relevant part of the article below here, even though it was already posted in the Lorain-Cuyahoga rail thread in its entirety.

 

Talks on extending scenic railway rolling along

Thursday, July 20, 2006

James Ewinger and Carl Matzelle

Plain Dealer Reporters

 

More passenger rail service is chugging a little closer to reality this week, but don't look for any immediate changes in Northeast Ohio.

 

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway continues to gather necessary support for an eight-mile extension that will join Tower City to the railroad's existing track. Currently that track runs 51 miles from Independence to Canton.

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CVSR's operation and passenger counts are amazing compared with what they were about fifteen years ago, when I first rode. Access to the Tower City area would likely give them another huge boost, and I'd love to see it happen.

 

Regarding the article cited by blinker12, writers who use the word, "chugging," in reference to any railroad equipment other than a steam locomotive should be required to choose either public caning or reeducation camp. :whip: I remember a newspaper article by a moron travel writer who even used the word in reference to an electric railway.

 

Americans outside dense metropolitan areas are largely rail-illiterate, and rail-illiterate writers who perpetuate the quaint-and-cutesy, not-to-be-taken-seriously image detract from efforts to promote rail as an alternative to more expressways.

 

Sorry. I wandered away from the topic. I'll shut up, now.

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this is very exciting and optimistic!  I'd assume it will still only be used as a tourist route, but damn, I'll hop on!  Would taking your bike on the train, "chugging" down up the river and riding back be an option?

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this is very exciting and optimistic!  I'd assume it will still only be used as a tourist route, but damn, I'll hop on!  Would taking your bike on the train, "chugging" down up the river and riding back be an option?

 

Great idea! That would be a great marketing tool to entice more people to start their tours of the CVNP at Tower City. 

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Yes, it would. You could access the Towpath Trail at several existing stops, including Brecksville and Peninsula, where the trail is only steps away from the station. It reminds me of how I used to take Metro North out of New York up to the Appalachian Trail to hike!

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