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Amtrak may include stop near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Cleveland-to-Cincinnati route

(The following story by Karen Farkas appeared on the Cleveland Plain Dealer website on May 4, 2009.)

CLEVELAND — The proposed passenger train route from Cleveland to Cincinnati may include a stop at an RTA rapid station near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and one in Grafton in Lorain County, according to a report released by Amtrak.

The route recommended by Amtrak is part of its ongoing study of providing rail service along existing freight tracks across the state.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission, an independent agency within the Ohio Department of Transportation, has been in talks with city officials about potential routes for about a year to determine stops, said Matthew Dietrich, commission executive director.

There were about 15 different route options for the $250 million 3-C Corridor project, which is seeking federal stimulus money and has the support of Gov. Ted Strickland and federal officials.

Key to any train service is access to other transportation when passengers disembark at a station, said rail commission spokesman Stu Nicholson.

Nicholson said his group has been talking with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority for a joint station at West 150th Street and Puritas Avenue. Passengers could take the Red Line rapid to the airport or to Tower City, where they could connect to other rapid or bus lines.

Amtrak expects to complete its $45,000 study, which will include ridership, revenue and operating costs, including state subsidies, by the end of August.

The corporation chose a direct route between Cleveland and Columbus and opted not to go west to Elyria or east to Akron. It will stop near Cleveland's airport and in Springfield and Dayton, said Nicholson. Stops north of Columbus may include Shelby, Galion and Delaware, Ohio. It may also stop in Hamilton, north of Cincinnati.

Amtrak's current Cleveland station near Cleveland Browns Stadium would be expanded, and stations would be needed in Columbus, Dayton and Springfield, Nicholson said. Amtrak would bypass Union Terminal in Cincinnati because of congestion and go to a new station on the city's riverfront, he said.

Passengers could connect to other Amtrak routes through Cleveland and Cincinnati. Columbus has not had passenger rail service for 30 years.

Because they are using CSX and Norfolk Southern tracks, passenger trains cannot impede freight trains, according to Dietrich. The state is paying $450,000 to Woodside Consulting Group in Palo Alto, Calif., to look at existing freight traffic schedules in the corridor and how three or four passenger trains could be added to the tracks, he said.

"As we identify routes, Woodside will see how this all fits together," he said. "They will start overlaying the schedules and the stops and identify the choke points."

Amtrak said the tracks are in good condition for a train speed of 79 mph, but it might take up to six hours to travel the 250-mile route because of stops. Driving Interstate 71 between Cleveland and Cincinnati takes about 4-1/2 hours.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

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