Amtrak Dangles Service Prospect in Ashtabula

Amtrak officials recently contacted city officials in Ashtabula to discuss making the county seat community a stop for a proposed new Cleveland-New York corridor.

It is not the first time Ashtabula has been talked about as an Amtrak stop.

 A few years ago city officials asked Amtrak to consider stopping the Lake Shore Limited at the former New York City depot.

However, that request yielded nothing and CSX razed the station in 2018.

Judging from the content of a story published by the Ashtabula newspaper, the Star Beacon, Amtrak’s outreach efforts to Ashtabula are part of a larger effort to win political support for a proposal to establish a series of corridor services.

The intercity passenger corridor plan Amtrak is hoping to get Congress to approve would provide seed money for would establish the corridors between major urban areas.

In the case of Ohio, that would be a corridor between Cleveland and New York via Buffalo, and the long-discussed but never developed 3C corridor between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton.

Amtrak officials also are talking up the prospect of reviving service between Toledo and Michigan points, a series that existed until April 1995 when it was discontinued as a cost-cutting move.

They also are discussing development of a Chicago-Cincinnati corridor.

Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere told the Star Beacon that the corridor development proposal is expected to be contained in legislation creating a new surface transportation law.

Apparently Amtrak is dangling the prospect of being added to its network in front of local government officials in an effort to win their support for the legislation.

 “This stop would be an amazing opportunity not only for tourism here in our area, but to provide another option to our residents who may work in Cleveland or along the route at one of the stops,” he said. “Access to transportation of this magnitude opens up a whole set of opportunities for our area and we will advocate strongly for the passage of this bill.”

Ashtabula would be a stop on the Cleveland-New York corridor. It is unclear if Ashtabula would also be a stop for the Lake Shore Limited.

No. 48 passes through Ashtabula around 7 a.m. while No. 49 comes through around 2:30 a.m.

Currently, Erie, Pennsylvania, is the only stop for Nos. 48 and 49 between Cleveland and Buffalo.

Amtrak was poised to begin stopping the Lake Shore Limited in Dunkirk, New York, in the late 1990s.

Local officials there pushed hard for the stop, putting up fliers in support of it and handing out leaflets seeking to build public support. The community held an Amtrak rally day.

Some Amtrak timetables showed service to Dunkirk to begin on a date to be announced.

However, the proposal fell victim to the breakup of Conrail by CSX and Norfolk Southern and Nos. 48 and 49 never did serve Dunkirk.

All of the corridor proposals that Amtrak officials mentioned in their call to Ashtabula have been proposed in the past but never materialize due to lack of funding.

Amtrak has been telling state and local officials that stand to gain service from these corridors that the passenger carrier will put up the money for some initial capital costs and pay the operating expenses for the corridors for a few years.

But state and local governments would have to absorb those operating costs eventually.

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