Local organizations help pay for proposed train route study

SANDUSKY If the proposed West Shore Commuter Rail train linking Sandusky to Cleveland ever gets buil
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



If the proposed West Shore Commuter Rail train linking Sandusky to Cleveland ever gets built, local organizations will be able to claim part of the credit.

After several months of fundraising, the $70,000 local match has been raised for a study of the proposal to go forward.

The Erie County Foundations Council awarded $15,000 for the local match, while Lake Erie Shores and Islands East provided another $10,000, said Barbara Hanck, president of the Sandusky/Erie County Community Foundation, lead agency in the Foundations Council.

"We felt this had a lot of potential in terms of economic development for the region," Hanck said.

The $70,000 will provide a local match for U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton's $344,000 federal earmark for the study, said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio, an advocacy group that seeks to develop passenger rail in Ohio.

Requests for proposals to carry out the study will be discussed in a meeting in Lorain next week, he said.

The proposed 65-mile rail line would connect Sandusky and Vermilion to Lorain, Avon Lake, West Bay Village, Rocky River, Lakewood and downtown Cleveland.

Prendergast said interest also remains strong in obtaining federal high speed rail money for a proposed high speed train that would link Chicago, Toledo and Cleveland and possibly include Sandusky. U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, has been a major advocate for the proposed Chicago to Cleveland high speed train. Sandusky is currently served by Amtrak.

Gov. Ted Strickland met Tuesday with federal officials to press for funding for another proposed passenger rail line, one that would link Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. It's estimated that proposed rail line would cost about $250 million, said Scott Varner, deputy director at the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Amtrak is carrying out a study to update information about that proposed project, Varner said. Prendergast said Congress is due to renew a transportation funding law this year.

"There's going to be a lot of pressure on Congress this year to dramatically increase funding for transportation," he said.

Hanck said there will be nine public meetings to discuss the proposedSandusky to Cleveland train, three in each county that would be served.

Sandusky/Erie County Community Foundation will set up the three meetings in Erie County. They will probably be in the fall, she said.