Ohio will apply for $1 million in federal funds to explore Amtrak expansion in the state, the Ohio Rail Development Commission announced Wednesday.
The federal dollars would go toward studying how two potential new rail corridors tied to Cleveland and Cincinnati — which already have Amtrak service to other states — could work and benefit Ohioans. One corridor would be through Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit; the other would connect Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.
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But there’s still a long way to go. Getting the funds is the “first step of many,” Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press release. He noted a lot of questions still need to be answered on how such an expansion would impact the state.
Advocacy for more passenger rail service in Ohio in recent years hasn’t been fruitful. In 2011, then-Gov. John Kasich was among a few Republican governors who turned down federal funds that had been previously agreed to by their Democratic or independent predecessors for such expansion.
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A statement Wednesday from Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said he applauds the move to study the possibility again, and that Amtrak expansion would “transform our state’s economy and improve mobility for all Ohioans.”
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Should Ohio’s application succeed, the Federal Railroad Administration would provide $500,000 per new corridor. That would allow the ORDC to bring on a consultant to help create a plan with information such as ridership, operating costs, track improvements and how much money the state would have to contribute to get the additional service started.