Cincinnati Interests View FRA Midwest Rail Study as Step Toward Daily Amtrak Service to Chicago

Cincinnati area rail advocates are hailing a pending Federal Railroad Administration study as a potential step toward daily Amtrak service to Chicago.

The FRA recently said it would conduct a $3 million study of rail passenger service in the Midwest and Southeast.

The study will cover Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and 10 others states.

At present, the only Amtrak service in southwestern Ohio is the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal.

No. 50 to New York passes through Cincinnati on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. No. 51 to Chicago serves the Queen City on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

In both instances, the trains are scheduled to arrive at Cincinnati Union Terminal between midnight and 4 a.m.

Derek Bauman is the southwest regional director for All Aboard Ohio, a statewide rail passenger advocacy group. He and other Cincinnati area residents have spent the past 15 lobbying for daily rail service to Chicago.

“It’s great news that the Midwest is being afforded these planning dollars,” he said.

Passenger advocates would like to see Cincinnati-Chicago service developed further, including making infrastructure improvements to reduce the current 7-hour running time.

“We haven’t seen anything like this come down the pike in some time — if ever,” Bauman said. “Being a part of this larger effort gives us here locally a great resource to lean on.”

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, a long-time advocate for bringing rail transit to the region, also views the the FRA’s plan a “real positive shot in the arm.”

“This funding makes the vision real,” Portune told WCPO-TV. “It tells us there is not only verbal support, but there is now financial support for doing the preliminary environmental work that’s needed for high-speed rail service between Cincinnati and Chicago.”

Portune also said that the pending planning process “communicates to the region, ‘Now is the time to get your act together.'”

Beyond a daily connection to Chicago, Portune said daily rail service out of the city center of Cincinnati could lead to other local transit options connecting Downtown to Hamilton’s County’s west side communities.

Bauman said All Aboard Ohio is seeking to development partnerships with local chambers of commerce, educational institutions, and other organizations soon to draft model plans to supplement the FRA’s study on a local level.

“It’s important for us as a region to stay in tune with what’s going on,” he said.

Rail passenger proponents are also working the city of Oxford and Miami University in a campaign to establish a stop of the Cardinal in Oxford, Ohio.

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