New high-speed passenger rail corridors are picking up steam in Ohio.
Gov. Ted Strickland wrote a letter to Amtrak CEO Alexander Kummant requesting the company study the potential implementation of a new passenger rail corridor from Cleveland to Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.
"This is a significant step forward in Ohio's efforts to create new and better transportation options for Ohioans," said Matt Dietrich, executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission. "Moving people and freight by rail is becoming even more important with ever-rising fuel costs and the impact on everything from people's personal budgets to doing business in Ohio."
The state-funded study will take an about 12-18 months to complete, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.
Amtrak has already partnered with 14 states on similar projects. The company now has studies underway in Michigan, Iowa, and Texas.
"State-supported routes are the fastest-growing part of our business," Kummant said.
Strickland requested the study be done in two parts: the Cleveland to Columbus route and the Columbus to Cincinnati route.
"Those might not be all the stops," Magliari said. "We'll work with the state."
Amtrak will also coordinate with the major freight railroads to increase the capacity for greater freight movement.
Magliari said Ohio is a historically under-served area in terms of passenger rail. Central Ohio has not been part of a rail corridor since 1979.
This isn't the first time Ohioans have heard talk of a high-speed rail. In 1975, the state General Assembly created the Ohio Rail Transportation Authority to develop a long-term high-speed passenger rail plan. In 1980, the commission determined a 1 percent increase in sales tax could finance a 600-mile system connecting 13 Ohio cities. The proposed tax increase was put on the ballot in 1982 but was defeated.
However, with rising gas prices and increasingly congested highways, the idea of high-speed passenger rail is gaining momentum.
In January the Sandusky City Commission voted to support U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur's federal appropriation request for matching funds for the development of the Ohio Hub Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit passenger rail corridor, which would connect many Ohio cities and in the long run save Midwesterners about 9.4 million gallons of fuel.