COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is keeping the region on track for the future with rail service connecting Central Ohio to other major urban centers, rural and Appalachian areas on the national passenger rail network.
MORPC, along with other regions, communities, and businesses across Ohio, recently submitted expression of interest letters to work with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to create Service Development Plans (SDPs) for new intercity passenger rail service. The support letters requested prioritization of the Cincinnati-Dayton-Columbus-Cleveland Corridor (3C+D), including a passenger rail spur connector to John Glenn International Airport (CMH), and the Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh Corridor (Midwest Connect) for development and implementation.
“Central Ohio is the country’s best case for new service when you consider the current pace of growth,” said William Murdock, MORPC Executive Director. “Our region’s population is expected to hit three million by 2050. Ensuring new service for the region would mean both new jobs and better access for Central Ohio residents, and would support the region’s communities – urban, suburban, and rural – as we address transportation access, sustainability, and economic development issues.”
While the 3C+D and the Midwest Connect Corridors have often been discussed, the list goes beyond those immediate priorities to consider additional studies for expansion including a:
• Columbus–Toledo–Detroit Corridor
• Columbus–Lancaster–Logan–Athens Corridor
• Columbus–Chillicothe–Portsmouth (South Shore, Kentucky) Corridor
• Zanesville and Western Scenic Railroad–Mt. Perry Railroad Expansion
In November 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed, launching a once-in-a-generation investment over the next five years to expand the existing FRA programs and create new programs in the nation’s rail transportation network across the United States. The law includes $102 billion in total rail funding.
“We are very optimistic about this opportunity,” said Thea Ewing, MORPC’s Chief Regional Development Officer & Senior Director of Programming. “We have the right partners, the public supports a multi-model approach to transit, and this is a new federal funding opportunity. This is the ‘transit trifecta’ we were always hoping to hit.”
For years, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission has worked with organizations, including the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association, to advance passenger rail on the Midwest Connect Corridor. The route would re-establish passenger service along existing rail lines. MORPC previously requested that Amtrak add the Corridor to its 2035 ConnectUS Plan as a high priority route.
Public comments during the most recent updates to MORPC’s 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) garnered deep interest from community members, public and private partners, institutions, interest groups, and local governments in passenger rail service in Columbus, the nation’s 14th largest city, along multiple corridors.
Regarding next steps, in 2023, MORPC plans to work with other regions and communities in Ohio to advance new passenger rail service projects for funding under the FRA’s new corridor identification program. Applications must be submitted in early spring and MORPC intends to apply as part of a collaborative effort.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) is central Ohio’s regional council with more than 80 members comprised of counties, cities, villages, townships, and regional organizations.
Submitted by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.