September 17, 2014

Elyria
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Sen. Brown pulls for rail at Elyria center

ELYRIA — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is pulling for Mayor Holly Brinda’s plan to bring two railroad giants together to possibly bring rail service back to the Lorain County Transportation and Community Center.

On the heels of letters Brinda fired off in late October to Amtrak and Norfolk Southern, Brown, D-Avon, offered his own pleas to the transportation titans, asking for better cooperation so a plan can be forged to bring improvements to the old train depot on East Avenue.

The letters are meant to change Amtrak plans, which include a proposed $1 million improvement project to the current station on East Bridge Street.

The improvements to the platform will bring the company into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, Brinda would like to see those improvements moved down the line and incorporated into the county’s transportation center, which is an old train station that underwent a $5 million renovation but largely sits empty.

Brown echoed those sentiments.

“Moving Amtrak service to the Lorain County Transit Center would be a tremendous step forward in our efforts to revitalize downtown Elyria and provide a common sense solution to the problems posed by the current station, which has no amenities and very little space,” Brown wrote in a letter to Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman.

He followed up with a letter to President and CEO Charles W. Moorman of Norfolk Southern. The company would need to allow infrastructure work on its rails to make commuter service possible. Norfolk Southern would have to agree to allow access to pedestrian tunnels beneath its tracks, which is something Brown is encouraging.

“Engineering and logistical challenges may arise, but I believe that cost-effective solutions that involve the use of the Lorain County Transit Center, protect passenger and pedestrian safety, and ensure minimal disruption to freight operations can be achieved,” Brown wrote.

Brinda said since writing the letters she has received a letter from executives at Norfolk Southern that appears to be supportive of the idea. She has also heard through third parties that Amtrak may be open to new ideas.

“I thought we would hear no, but they are willing to work with us, so that is very good news,” Brinda said.

Having Brown send letters will only help move the project along further, she said.

“It certainly can’t hurt to have Sen. Brown’s support,” she said.

The letter Brinda received from John V. Edwards, the general director of passenger policy with Norfolk Southern, sounds like Brinda will garner more than a little support.

“With the foregoing as a basis for moving forward with project, we would be happy to help the city of Elyria and Amtrak with the engineering and design and other aspects of the project, including any effort by the city of Elyria to obtain federal and state funding to finance it,” he said. “With a joint commitment to safety to all, and assurance of no adverse impact to the freight operations, I am optimistic that this can be done.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.