Friday, July 16, 2010
Pittsburgh has popped up on a list of cities that Ohio officials would like to see linked into its still-being-built passenger rail system. Ohio expects to link Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland with a 79 mile an hour train by 2012 and the Ohio Rail Development Commission has signed a $7.8 million contract with the Los Angles based engineering firm AECOM to assess what would need to be done to institute 110-mph passenger trains on four routes, including Cleveland to Pittsburgh. The work is being funded through a federal grant. Commission spokesperson Stu Nicholson says the study will look at routes, environmental impacts and ridership. In January the Whitehouse announced that Ohio will be given $400 million in federal funding for the three-city high-speed rail link, which is expected to host 478,000 riders in the first year of operations. Nicholson says extending spurs from the “Ohio Hub” is the next logical step. A spur from Cleveland to Toledo is also being explored. Nicholson says building such lines will take a mix of funding sources including federal transportation dollars. He says he thinks interest in high-speed rail has grown in Washington DC as the debate over climate change and energy independence intensifies. It is still unclear who would operate the spurs.