Regional Passenger Rail Plans Pick Up Speed
With initial funding from Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) is reviewing credentials and selecting a consultant for the next step in the development of the Ohio Hub passenger rail system. The job for the consultant will be Program-level Environmental Impact Studies (PEIS) to identify routes, station locations, and major capital projects (such as overpasses or bridges) that will be needed to upgrade existing freight rail tracks for faster passenger trains. Four high speed rail corridors will be examined in this first phase, including Toledo-Columbus and Toledo-Cleveland. Cooperation will be needed from adjoining states to advance some planned Ohio Hub corridors, such as the Toledo-Detroit corridor.
Sixty-five people attended the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association (NOPRA) event in Perrysburg, October 30 to hear from Matt Dietrich, executive director of ORDC. He gave a presentation on the 3C Quick Start Corridor Program which is posted on tmacog.org here. Ohio has applied for $564 million from the federal stimulus program (ARRA) to implement standard speed passenger service in this corridor. The ORDC is proceeding with Requests for Proposals for operators and equipment for this new service. Dietrich said that the commission is optimistic that additional state and federal funding will be available to keep plans moving.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has been inundated with ARRA applications for passenger rail projects around the country and is responding by speeding up its review process. In October, FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo stated "[Funding requests] include 45 applications from 24 states totaling approximately $50 billion to advance high speed rail corridor programs. We also received 214 applications from 34 states totaling $7 billion for corridor planning and smaller projects. Due to the overwhelming response and our desire to lay the groundwork for a truly national high speed and intercity passenger rail program, we will be announcing all awards this winter.” The ARRA High Speed Rail grant program totals $8 billion. The President has included an additional $5 billion in his Fiscal Year 2010 budget request.