COLUMBUS — Amtrak recommends restoring passenger rail service among Ohio’s major cities by bypassing the grandest train station left in the state.
Getting new passenger trains into Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, a 76-year-old landmark known for its bold Art Deco style and enormous rotunda, would require extensive capital improvements and add to freight congestion already in the area, according to Amtrak’s preliminary study, which recommends building a new train station on the city’s riverfront instead.
Amtrak’s route recommendation, obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, is part of a study on what it would take to run 79-mph trains along existing freight tracks connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati — a project that Gov. Ted Strickland wants funded with federal stimulus money.
The proposed route would bypass Elyria and Akron on the northern leg in favor of a more direct route linking Cleveland to Columbus.
Lorain County Commissioner Betty Blair, a strong proponent of rail travel, said she was disappointed that the study suggested skipping Elyria.
“We have a train station that we’re remodeling, and we thought it would be a great place to stop,” she said.
Blair said while Elyria may not be as large as Cleveland, it still has a significant population that needs reasonable access to passenger trains.
“They want to go where the numbers are, and I understand that, but I don’t think we should be short-changed,” she said.
President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery package, signed in February, sets aside $8 billion for passenger rail projects in the U.S., something Obama sees as a down payment for a future high-speed network. The first round of funding is expected to be announced this summer.
Strickland has estimated Ohio would need $250 million in stimulus money to begin new Amtrak operations by the end of 2010, with the state picking up an annual $10 million operating cost.
Despite being one of the most treasured buildings in Cincinnati, Union Terminal, which handled 17,000 passengers and 216 trains a day in the 1930s, isn’t a good option for a new passenger line, Amtrak told state transportation officials.
Staff writer Brad Dicken contributed to this report.