Posts Tagged ‘Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority’

Light Rail Service Eyed in Canton

July 6, 2021

Canton officials want to study the possibility of a light rail service that would whisk visitors between the Pro Football Hall of Fame and downtown and someday to the Akron-Canton Airport.

The city engineering office and the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority will seek a $25,000 grant to explore the idea.

The grant application has been submitted to the Stark County Area Transportation Study.

However, Canton Enginer Dan Moeglin said SCATS has told him the rail project is not high on that agency’s priority list.

Officials say the development of the Hall of Fame Village with new hotels and attractions would draw a significant number of people from out of the area.

The proposed rail service would cost between $25 million to $50 million with officials hoping the Federal Transit Administration would cover at least 80 percent of the costs.

SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad said the project would take at least two years from approval to construction. The project could be halted if the Hall of Fame Village ends failing to develop.

“If it’s not cost effective and we’re not going to get the return on investment, then we’re not going to do it,” Moeglin said.

 “We think having that dedicated line to and from the Village and downtown creates a calling card and attractiveness that a simple bus doesn’t provide,” he said.

Canton officials envision using track owned by Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority that was once used by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad between Akron and Canton.

A portion of this line is used by the Wheeling & Lake Erie for freight service.

If the rail service develops, a station would be established near the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the southwest corner of Fulton Road NW and Harrison Avenue. 

Trains would go to Tuscarawas Street west of Brown Avenue. Intermediate stops could include 12th Street NW near the McKinley Memorial and Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, the Ralph Regula Federal Building, City Hall and Stark State Downtown campus at 400 Third St. SE.

Some new track construction would be needed for the project on Third Street SW as it goes southeast from Tuscarawas and then east with a stop at Market Avenue.

Eventually, the service would be extended northward to the Akron-Canton Airport with stops in the Belden Village area with shuttle service to SARTA’s Belden Village Station on Whipple Avenue NW.

Conrad said autonomous vehicles could shuttle passengers from a station on Fulton Road NW by the track to and from the Hall of Fame.

He said he’s had only preliminary discussions with Akron Metro officials about using the rail line. Yet to be worked out is whether the city and SARTA would lease or purchase the railroad tracks.

Valerie Shea, director of planning of Akron Metro, said her agency has not “had any discussions regarding this specific proposal or its operational details at this time. However, we continue to discuss and remain open to any ideas that bring economic growth to our region.”

Conrad said a feasibility study, if funded, would take at least six months to complete.

SARTA operated a bus designed to look like a trolley for less than six months in 2006 on a loop in downtown Canton. Ridership was poor with the trolley bus carrying fewer than 10 passengers on some days.

Startup Wants to Revive ex-Akron Branch

December 5, 2020
The former Akron Branch as it looked in October 2012 near Stow.

A Norfolk Southern worker has proposed restoring freight service to an out of service former Pennsylvania Railroad line in Summit County.

Jeff White is a founder and part owner of the Hudson & Southern, which would operate the nearly 15-mile line that runs between Hudson and Cuyahoga Falls via Hudson, Stow and Silver Lake.

The line in question has long been known as the Akron Branch and was the first railroad to serve Akron when it was completed on July 4, 1852.

The line was last used by Conrail in 1994 and has since been railbanked.

White indicated his primary business initially would be the storage of rail cars for shippers using NS and CSX.

Most of the line is owned by Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority which bought it in 1995 and railbanked it for potential commuter rail use.

However a portion of the line in Hudson is owned by NS and is still used occasionally by that company to turn equipment on a wye.

Although the H&S is still establishing its business plan, White said longer term his company is considering establishing a transload facility near Seasons Road that would transfer bulk commodities between rail cars and trucks.

White said he has learned of interest by some companies to build manufacturing facilities or warehouses in the Seasons Road area, but they would do that only if there is an active rail line nearby.

“It’s kind of a ‘if you build it, they will come’ kind of thing,” he said.

However, Akron Metro and the residents of Cuyahoga Falls, Stow and Silver Lake have other ideas for what use should be made of the railroad right of way.

Valerie Shea, director of planning and strategic development for Akron Metro said her agency has met with officials in those communities about their interest in developing the land as a hike and bike trail.

“That’s kind of been what we’ve been pursuing a little more,” Shea said.

She said Akron Metro met with H&S officials about a year ago but has not spoken with the company since then.

White said N&S last met with Akron Metro in fall 2019 but the COVID-19 pandemic stalled development of those plans. Work resumed on creating a business model within the past month.

In a best case scenario, White envisions it would be three to four years before trains resume using the line.

N&S will need to work with the Ohio Rail Development Commission on rehabilitating the track.

The railroad would also need to obtain approval of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to reactivate the line as well as the approval and cooperation of NS and Akron Metro.

White hopes to file a petition with the STB in spring 2021.

Akron Metro would need approval of the Federal Transit Administration before the rail line could be used for a trail.

Shea said she didn’t know how long that process would take.

In the meantime, Shea said Akron Metro is working with all the municipalities along the line to ensure the use of the land is “amenable to everybody.”

She said the public transit agency is willing to consider H&S’s proposal “if it’s vetted through the municipalities that we’ve been working with.”

That could lead to widespread opposition as happened several years ago when another rail operator proposed using the Akron Branch for a dinner train.

White said he knows resuming rail use has been “a touchy subject in the past.”

Since revealing his plans for the ex-Pennsy line, White said he has heard from people concerned about noise and trains traveling past their homes at late hours.

In response, White said modern trains are not noisy, N&S would only operate two to three times a week on weekdays during mid morning or late afternoon.

The trains of five to 12 cars would travel no more than 10 mph and quiet zones could be established in residential areas.

He also said that his company would not be handling hazardous materials, noting the area is not zoned to allow operations that would involve those.

“Most people who live along the tracks are going to be hard-pressed to ever even see the train,,” White said adding that he N&S wants to be a community partner.

Akron Metro Wins FTA Grant

October 10, 2020

Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority has received a $450,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

The funding will be used to study the potential economic effects of transit-oriented development on underutilized, publicly-owned or vacant property.

Akron Metro in partnership with the City of Akron will consider if it can provide service that would help to create job and housing opportunities in areas of persistent poverty.

The award was among 35 projects that received $17.6 million in funding.

The Hocking Athens Perry Community Action agency will receive $122,890 to study improved access to health care and other essential services in rural and low-income areas in Athens County.

The project will explore options for expanding Athens Public Transit’s service area and improving scheduling efficiency for better coordination between transit operators.

The agency will partner with CALSTART, a nonprofit organization, to assess scheduling software and analyze fare payment options.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority received two grants.

The Philadelphia-based agency received $742,000 to be used to pay for installation of an automated employee protection system to improve safety for workers doing track work.

SEPTA also received a $495,000 grant to pay for planning and design of an upgrade of transportation infrastructure on the Grays Avenue Corridor.

The agency said the corridor provides critical transportation connections from one of Philadelphia’s poorest communities to Center City jobs, healthcare and other services.

The project will redesign trolley stations to improve accessibility and add safety features such as improved pedestrian crosswalks and traffic controls.

The City of Detroit received $750,000 to improve access to food, transit services and healthcare facilities by identifying gaps in the transportation network in underserved communities.

The study will include a comprehensive survey to understand mobility challenges from the community perspective and assess potential partners for implementation.