Rail Users Network to Meet in Cleveland

A rail passenger advocacy group will meet on Saturday in Cleveland at the headquarters of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Members of the Rail Users Network will take a tour of the RTA shops and hear from various speakers, including RTA CEO Joe Calabrese; Steve Albro, vice chairman of RTA’s Citizen Advisory Board; Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio; and Jeanne Cantu, Amtrak’s business comptroller for long-distance services.

The public is invited to come hear the presentations, which will begin at 1:30 p.m., but only members of the Rail Users Network will be permitted to join the RTA shops tour.

Group members will also board an RTA Red Line train to visit the new station in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland.

Richard Rudolph, chairman of the Rail Users Network, said the group favors expansion of America’s passenger rail lines and making train travel more customer-friendly.

“Unfortunately, we have people in Congress who don’t think rail is a priority,” said Rudolph, a retired professor of sustainability and climate change at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

The Rail Users Network also considers itself to be a voice for city transit passengers.

Prendersgast said that now could be a pivotal moment for expanding passenger rail in Ohio.

He cited pending studies by the Federal Railroad Administration to study expansion of rail passenger service in the Midwest and the Southeast.

The FTA last year issued a similar plan for Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

Prendergast also pointed to a provision in a bill approved in the U.S. Senate that would permit use of federal money to expand long-distance rail passenger service without the need for a host state to sponsor it.

The House has yet to act on its version of the Surface Transportation Program.

“With these ingredients coming together, the time is right for All Aboard Ohio to consider how best to use these opportunities for rail expansion in Ohio,” Prendergast said, noting that the group has proposed extending Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian to Chicago via Youngstown, Cleveland, Toledo and Dearborn, Michigan. The train currently operates between New York and Pittsburgh with funding provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

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