Posts Tagged ‘Michael DeWine’

Amtrak Says 3C+D Could Start in 2 Years

May 20, 2021

Amtrak service between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton could be up and running in as little as two years, company executives said this week.

Amtrak Chairman William Flynn and President Steven Gardner joined several Ohio elected and civic officials in an online roundtable designed to build support for the proposed service.

However, getting the service out of the station hinges on Congress appropriating the billions the passenger carrier is seeking to develop a series of new corridors across the country.

Gardner also noted that Amtrak needs to negotiate agreements with the host railroads whose tracks it will use on the 250-mile route.

“We believe we could start initial service, maybe one round-trip or a few, without much initial investment, using current track speeds,” Gardner said. “We believe we could get started here in hopefully what would be a relatively short period of a couple of years.”

In the meantime, what was once called the 3C corridor is now being branded as the 3C+D route to include Dayton in the nomenclature.

Garnder said the length of the route is is the sweet spot for successful intercity passenger rail service.

“This service is the type of service we should have for major cities, and for an important state like Ohio,” he said. “Frankly, it should have happened a long time ago.”

The 3C+D corridor is part of an ambitious plan by Amtrak to expand intercity service.

Aside from the Cleveland-Cincinnati route, Amtrak has proposed creating additional service on existing routes through Cleveland to Detroit and Buffalo.

The passenger carrier would front the money to be used for capital costs to develop the routes and initially pay the operating costs of the trains.

But state and local governments would be expected to assume operating costs on a sliding scale with Amtrak’s share declining until states would pay all of the operating costs.

Although the proposed 3C+D service received endorsements from various mayors who joined the call, Ohio Gov. Michael DeWine has been noncommittal about it.

Last month DeWine said he was reserving judgment on the plan until he could learn more about it, including its potential cost to the state.

Although neither DeWine nor a representative of the Ohio Department of Transportation participated in this week’s online roundtable, Gardner said Amtrak is “anxious to work with the state to look at what that partnership could be and put together a model that makes sense for Ohio.”

During the roundtable, Amtrak said the3C+D route would have stations in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati as well as at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Crestline, Delaware, Springfield and Sharonville.

Service is expected to be three round-trips per day with additional trips being added as ridership grows.

The route is expected to draw as many as 500,000 passengers annually and provide an economic impact of $130 million.

The Cleveland-Cincinnati travel time would be about 5.5 hours, but track improvements could cut that to 4 hours and 55 minutes.

Gardner said that a train does not need to be faster than car travel, but does need to be competitive. “The time on the train is productive time, which is not the same as driving time,” he said. “You can work, you can have access to wi-fi, you can socialize, you can walk around. It’s a much more comfortable and productive method,” he said.

Cleveland has the most current Amtrak service of the cities in the 3C+D corridor being served by the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Trains on both of those routes, though are scheduled to pass through Cleveland between midnight and 6 a.m.

Cincinnati has a similar situation with the Chicago-New York Cardinal. Dayton and Columbus have lacked Amtrak service since the Oct. 1, 1979, discontinuance of the New York-Kansas City National Limited.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was one of the participants in the roundtable and gave the 3C+D a hearty endorsement.

“We simply don’t have the luxury of choosing not to do this,” he said. “It is about positioning Ohio for the future. It’s not a question of rural or urban or suburban or Democrat or Republican. It’s about do we as Ohioans want to be competitive in the world, in this nation?”

Also participating in the roundtable were Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley; Crestline Mayor Linda Horning-Pitt, and William Murdock, the executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Columbus is the second-largest metro area in the country without Amtrak service. Phoenix is the largest. 

“Not being in that network puts us at a disadvantage,” Murdock said. 

“Businesses and residents are clamoring for this,” he said. “We know the community is behind it. Investing in Ohio, it makes a lot of sense. It’s grounded not just in major cities, it’s really important to rural areas and smaller metros.”

Murdock said when young people arrive in Columbus one of the first questions they ask is, “Where’s the train stop?”

MORPC released 30 letters of support from community leaders who want expanded Amtrak service in Ohio.

Some of the funding Amtrak hopes to land to develop the 3C+D route would come from the $80 billion earmarked for Amtrak by President Joseph Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.

However, other funding would be contained in a surface transportation bill Congress is expected to take up later this year.

That bill, though, would merely authorize spending. Other legislation would need to be adopted to appropriate federal funding for Amtrak expansion.

The 3C corridor has been the subject of numerous studies and failed attempts to launch service.

The most recent occurred 11 years ago when the state received a $400 million grant to start the route.

However, John Kasich campaigned for governor on a pledge to refuse the funding, which he made good on after being elected in 2010.

Before that ODOT proposed a Cleveland-Columbus service during a rebuilding of Interstate 71. That also failed to launch.

During the roundtable, Amtrak CEO Flynn said the carrier has spent the past three years developing a strategy to expand service.

Known as Connect US, the expansion would touch up to 160 communities in 25 states on more than 30 routes It would be developed over the next 15 years.

Also included in the proposal is additional service between Cincinnati and Chicago via Indianapolis. That route would have an extension from Indianapolis to Louisville, Kentucky.

Although not part of the Amtrak Connect US network, studies are underway of a route between Chicago and Pittsburgh via Columbus.

Although no ODOT officials joined this week’s roundtable, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has spoken with ODOT and Ohio Rail Development Commission members.

Gardner acknowledged said that much work needs to be done to bring the 3C+D service to fruition.

“These are not insurmountable challenges,” he said.

Ohio House Committee Boosts Public Transit Funding

March 2, 2021

Gov. Mike DeWine’s efforts to slash funding of public transit failed to survive a markup session  by a House committee.

The House Finance Committee last week voted to provide $97 million annually for public transportation, a number far above the $7.3 million recommended by DeWine.

The funding approved by the committee includes $23.2 million in federal “flex” funding.

The previous state budget allocated $63 million for public transit funding.

The transportation budget is still subject to further work by the committee and still must be approved by the full House before it moves on to the Senate.

House Speaker Bob Cupp said the House plans to vote on the transportation budget this week.

State law requires the legislature to approve a transportation budget by March 31.

DeWine suffered two other defeats from the House committee when it voted to remove a proposed $10 increase in the state’s annual vehicle registration fee and removed a provision increasing penalties for drivers who use cell phones while driving.

The governor sought the increase in vehicle fees to raise an additional $127 million a year for the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Committee members who opposed the increase said now is the wrong time to impose new costs on drivers.

DeWine has been pushing since February 2020 a proposal he called “Hands Free Ohio” to crack down on cell phone use while driving.

His original proposal failed to advance in the legislature in the last session so it was introduced as part of the transportation budget this year.

State Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-Canton), the chairman of the finance committee, cited precedent in removing the distracted driving provision.

He said legislators “generally try not to put anything dealing with criminal law” into state budget bills.

Cupp said the distracted driving measure will be introduced as a standalone bill later in the session.

DeWine Proposes Cutting State Transit Funding

February 13, 2021

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has proposed slashing state funding for public transit in the 2022 and 2023 state fiscal years.

DeWine recommended $7.3 million for public transit funding whereas the current budget is $70 million over a two-year period.

Actual state funding, though, is $63 million due to COVID-19 pandemic budget cuts in the wake of falling state revenues.

Federal funding of Ohio public transit agencies, which is passed through the state for budgeting purposes, would be about $50 million.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks defended the transit funding cut before a state legislative committee by saying DeWine’s proposal reflects what the state has historically spent on transit funding.

State transit funding increased in 2019 as part of a deal made between House Democrats and the legislature’s majority Republicans.

Marchbanks sought to further defend the lower numbers for transit by saying they reflect “budget realities” as the state considers its spending needs.

 “Your point is well made that the need is there,” Marchbanks said in response to a question from one lawmaker.

“But we have in this budget, because of our COVID-based limitations, returned to our historical funding patterns.”

Ohio transit officials countered that Ohio’s spending on public transportation has been among the lowest per capital of any state for several years.

They said that funding cuts would exacerbate the challenges they are already facing in dealing with reduced ridership and revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Public transit is a lifeline for many people and it is worthy of investment, particularly during this pandemic when we’ve discovered the inequality of how COVID is affecting our communities of color,” said Claudia Amrhein, general manager of the Portage Area Regional Transit Authority and president of the Ohio Public Transit Association.

She said public transportation is the only option for many elderly and the poor to get to work and medical appointments.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority deputy general manager Mike Schipper noted that his agency received $25 million in funding from the current state budget.

Cleveland RTA used that money to buy 16 new buses and to set aside $5 million for rail car replacement.

“Obviously we wouldn’t be funding those things at the reduced amount,” he said.

Machbanks said ODOT’s overall funding is being squeezed due to falling revenue from the state gas tax.

Gas tax receipts have fallen during the pandemic as more people work from home and do less driving.

ODOT officials are planning to meet with transit agencies next week to discuss possible increases in the state’s share of federal “flex” funding for public transit.

“Transit is going to have to be reimagined post-pandemic and many, many transit agencies are trying to figure out what routing patterns they have to put in place, and what funding models work as they provide that critical mobility for people,” Marchbanks said.

Some state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already signaled that they plan to fight the proposed funding cuts during the legislative proceedings on the next state budget.