OH: Lima leaders hear rail pitch

March 13, 2024
Amtrak has not operated passenger rail in Lima in about 20 years, according to Lima/Allen Chamber of Commerce president Jed Metzger, but that would change if the state of Ohio is no longer a donut hole on the map of passenger rail service.

Mar. 12—LIMA — Amtrak has not operated passenger rail in Lima in about 20 years, according to Lima/Allen Chamber of Commerce president Jed Metzger, but that would change if the state of Ohio is no longer a donut hole on the map of passenger rail service.

According to a presentation that All Aboard Ohio shared with community members Monday, that could be a reality.

"Repeat after me: we want a stop in Lima," Mayor Sharetta Smith said introducing John Easterly, the All Aboard chairman.

Easterly said AAO did a study in December that focused on connecting Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton, but that even though Lima was not along that corridor, it could have a place on a connecting line that goes to Chicago.

" Ohio, in the course of this corridor identification program, has done very well," he said. "I think Ohio has traditionally been left behind when it comes to passenger rail, and I think Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and the administration in general are realizing that Ohio needs to be part of the greater Amtrak Network."

According to an announcement by AAO, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded four planning grants to determine the feasibility and other aspects of constructing rail corridors in Ohio in December, including lines for Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, or 3C+D; and Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit.

"We're here to talk about Midwest Connect, which will feature Chicago, Fort Wayne, Lima, Columbus and Pittsburgh," Easterly said in the presentation.

Metzger said the chamber and city government have been working hard to get passenger or high-speed rail in the community for a long time, and it would help the workforce, in addition to presenting advantages for commerce and livability.

"From a business and commerce standpoint, the economic value would be tremendous," he said. "You would see a lot more support to expand it into other communities."

Lima Chief of Staff Shane Coleman said that it was a pretty big deal for the city to get to this point, considering the history of advocating for passenger rail.

"If you look back at the past few decades, Mayor (David) Berger was a tremendous advocate for passenger rail and spent a lot of time calling for it," he said. "For us to get to this point today is pretty exciting. We hope the opportunity comes to fruition."

Easterly said although state-sponsored routes like the 3C+D line would take about three years of planning, the Midwest Connect line could move faster and be fully completed by 2031.

But there would be three steps of planning to get through first.

"We're kind of in a holding pattern right now because we're at the very beginning of the very first step," Easterly said. "As we work through that process, we'll definitely have opportunities for folks to reach out."

Metzger, however, said it would be worth it.

"You could jump on a train and take a direct route to Chicago," he said. "It's a lot more cost-effective if you're taking the family. It gave us places to go that maybe we wouldn't have went to, plus it rides pretty nice."

For more information, visit the AAO allaboardohio.org.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.

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