According to Stu Nicholson, a spokesman for the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC), the so-called 3-C Corridor linking Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, is considered by Amtrak planning officials to be "probably the best underdeveloped passenger rail corridor in the U.S." The route once plied by the New York Central's Ohio State Limited hasn't had a regular passenger train since Amtrak was formed in 1971.
Nicholson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that service could be restored over the line, now part of CSX, as early as 2010 if his agency succeeds in obtaining $100 million in infrastructure funding from Washington next year. The money would equip two trains, each of which would make one round trip on the 260-mile route at conventional speeds (top speed of 79 mph). Ohio also plans to ask for $200 million to eventually bring the route to high-speed capability.
Federal funding would come from the $25 billion that President-elect Obama has proposed to make immediately available for infrastructure projects across the country as part of an economic stimulus package. The request is one of $1.7 billion in "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects that Ohio wants Uncle Sam to help pay for.
The characteristics of this route suggest it has much promise. The distances are relatively short and the terrain is relatively flat, so trip lengths are unlikely to generate passenger fatigue. Also, air is not much of a competitive factor; the main competition will come from highways.
The largest city on the route, Columbus, which is also the largest city in the state, has two major traffic generators; it is the state capital and the home of The Ohio State University, which has over 40,000 students. Other stops along the route would include Galion, Springfield, Dayton and Middletown.
While Amtrak still serves Cleveland and Cincinnati on its east-west routes, Columbus lost its last train in 1979, when the National Limited between New York and Kansas City was terminated. It's Union Station was demolished short after.
The 3-C corridor is one of three routes ORCD hopes to develop as part of its Ohio Hub project. It also envisions new service from Cleveland to Detroit via Toledo as well between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Currently Amtrak's Capitol Limited serves the Toledo - Pittsburgh portion, but during late night hours.
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