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Ohio passenger rail service hinges on vote

DAYTON, Ohio -- Near the ghost of a Dayton train station, an advocate group met at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Saturday to try to resurrect passenger rail service, the Dayton Daily News reports.

Members of the Ohio Rail Passengers Association are backing the proposed 3C corridor, a passenger rail system to link Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, passing through Dayton and Springfield.

"That's where the rail lines are," said Ken Pendergast, former president of ORPA.

Days before Tuesday's election, the group also heard about the make-or-break vote on a light-rail system in Cincinnati.

Hamilton County voters will decide Issue 7, a half-cent increase in the sales tax, to fund 25 percent of the $2.6 billion cost of light rail, the rest coming from the federal government. The issue is backed by MetroMoves, a southwest Ohio regional transit plan, but faces opposition that calls the plan a "$5 billion boondoggle."

"What we are really up against is the bad aftertaste of the stadiums," said Mike Weber of MetroMoves, referring to the 1996 tax increase that built new stadiums for the Bengals and the Reds.

Although only freight cars now rumble along the trestle, the old Union Station on Ludlow Street, built in 1856, once offered passenger service throughout Ohio and the rest of the country. Passenger trains stopped in 1976, and the last remnant of Union Station was demolished in 1989.

Rail supporters think a return to rail travel would be one answer to overburdened interstates and inconvenient air travel.

"I don't know how many times before making the trip to Columbus I would think, 'I wish there were a train,’ " said Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin, who spoke to the group Saturday. "We put all our eggs in one basket -- highways -- and now the eggs are broken."

Most flights -- 60 percent -- out of Dayton International Airport are 400 miles or less, according to Pendergast. That is a niche he thinks trains could fill.

The group promotes medium-speed trains, traveling at 80 to 100 mph, rather than the more expensive high-speed trains in Europe and Japan. The 3C plan calls for three trains a day to and from Cleveland.

Monday, November 4, 2002

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