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OH Passenger Rail Ready to Pull Out of the Station

March 3, 2009

Columbus, OH - Backers of a passenger rail system that would span Ohio say it's almost ready to pull out of the station, and only needs a financial push to get going. The Ohio Hub Project is a system of rail lines to connect urban areas of the Buckeye State with each other, and to national rail networks.

Jennifer Miller, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club's Ohio Chapter, says an advantage of the proposal is its use of existing tracks.

"Through partnerships with the railroad industry, the Ohio Hub is an economic means of extending passenger rail throughout the state while also benefiting Ohio industry, because we improve freight operations at the same time."

The estimated price tag for the first phase of the project is $250 million, to connect Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. Critics have said the project is too expensive and are not convinced that the routes would generate enough revenue. Miller disagrees, saying there are both economic and environmental benefits to a statewide passenger rail system.

"The Ohio Hub is likely to produce a fuel savings of 9.4 million gallons that will benefit Ohio citizens financially and also reduce our emissions greatly."

Similar rail plans are moving forward in 36 states - and Ohio should use the momentum, says Miller, to transition to a 21st Century transportation system focused on moving people instead of cars and trucks.

"If our state is to remain competitive, we need to act. We should learn from our struggling auto industry - reluctance to modernize is at the heart of its economic woes, and that's one reason why Ohio is likely to take longer to bounce back."

When Ohio begins to spend money on the project, Miller explains, it would then qualify for 80 percent funding under the federal Passenger Rail Act, and also could receive dollars from the recently-passed federal stimulus package.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH