Monday, November 05, 2001

Railway service in Ohio on track for more funding

Boost of major-city connections gathers steam among lawmakers

The Associated Press

        In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, politicians are paying more attention to the idea of a rail service that would connect Ohio's three major cities.

        “I think we had a good case before Sept. 11, but now it's pretty hard for anyone to argue that a high-speed rail through Ohio is anything but a good idea,” said Ken Prendergast, vice president of the Ohio Association of Railroad Passengers.

        If Congress approves the proposed High-Speed Rail Investment Act, Amtrak would be able to sell $12 billion in bonds over 10 years to invest in high-speed rail corridors across the country.

Link to Cleveland

        The Cleveland-to-Cincinnati line is one of them.

        Amtrak spokesman Kevin Johnson said Amtrak would use the money to upgrade existing rail infrastructure, build new high-speed lines and purchase equipment.

        Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said Congress will approve aid to the railroad industry. He just can't say when.

        “Either this Congress or the next, this administration or the next, will pass it,” said Mr. Kucinich, whose district includes part of Cleveland and some of its suburbs.

        “Rail has bipartisan support in Congress. There is a growing movement in Congress to build a new rail infrastructure to connect major cities,” Mr. Kucinich said.

        “The chances of this happening are certainly better than they were before Sept. 11 exposed our vulnerability.”

        Mr. Prendergast has said that spending $400 million to $500 million building a high-speed rail line connecting Ohio's three major cities is smarter and cheaper than lengthening the runway at Cleveland Hopkins International Air- port or adding to the Ohio Turnpike.

        The federal government spends $33 billion annually on road improvements, but only $521 million on railroads, Mr. Johnson said.

        The airport runway expansion would cost more than $1 billion.

        Mr. Johnson said Amtrak also hopes to build a 110 mph line between Cleveland and Chicago that would cut down the current six-hour trip to compete with air travel.

        Mr. Prendergast said the expanded line could become an alternative to cars or airplanes for 300-mile to 400-mile trips.

        “I'd like to see regular train service from Cleveland to Pittsburgh and Toronto,” he said.

        “Also, we could use a downtown transportation center that would link the train to the Waterfront Line, bus services and commuter rail.”


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- Railway service in Ohio on track for more funding