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Friday, September 25, 2009

The 3C Corridor and its impacts on Cincinnati

Representatives from the Ohio's Department of Transportation traveled to City Hall last week to host an open forum discussing and explaining the 3C passenger rail project to Cincinnatians. This proposal will connect Cincinnati to Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland via passenger rail, and a group of about 30 people gathered at City Hall to get more information on the upcoming project and voice their opinions on the project and how it will affect Cincinnati.

The 3C representatives went through a detailed presentation outlining the plan that will be submitted to the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act for funding. If funding is approved for this project, there will be a preliminary "Quick Start" phase to get the rail up and running as quickly as possible. In this first phase it will take approximately 6.5 hours to ride the train from Cincinnati to Cleveland, with the trains reaching speeds of up to 79 miles per hour.

The eventual goal is to develop high-speed rail in Ohio, with trains traveling up to 110 miles per hour, and eventually connecting into the larger Midwest regional rail plan often referred to as the Chicago Hub. At these speeds the travel time from Cincinnati to Cleveland will be reduced to approximately 3.5 hours. Future hubs will create more stops than the six that are currently proposed. The current recommended route that will be submitted with the proposal includes hubs in Cleveland proper, south Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, north Cincinnati, and Cincinnati proper.

So how does this affect Cincinnati? Having reliable passenger rail connecting the public throughout the state of Ohio is fantastic. Of course, high-speed rail is the preferable (and eventual) goal, but one has to wonder how effective taking "baby steps" towards rail will be as opposed to tackling high-speed rail in one fell swoop.

The biggest concern at the meeting was the location of the train station that would service the greater Cincinnati area. The research group initially picked three locations to focus on: the Queensgate area, an area near Riverside Drive/the Boathouse/Sawyer Point, or a station located farther east, near Lunken Airport. All three of these options naturally have their drawbacks. The Queensgate area already deals with large amounts of freight traffic, and the concern was that there would be too much congestion in the area to make that stop feasible.

The proposed "Option one" (Riverside Drive) area was the station that caused the most concern and alarm among residents who were in attendance at the meeting. Denise Driehaus, a state representative who hails from the West Side, voiced her concern that locating the station on the far southeast side of the City would set up obstacles for citizens traveling from the west side. It is also less advantageous from a retail and tourism perspective, as newcomers to the Cincinnati will be dropped off on the east side rather than more towards the city center.

There were several East End citizen groups who were concerned about the Option One site for different reasons. Over the course of several years, citizen groups and people from the area have worked hard to create a "Riverfront Renaissance" consisting of the network of parks and housing in that particular area. These citizens are concerned that a new diesel train station would disturb the views and tear down the aforementioned parks. All of these proposed stations are, as of now, only temporary locations. As the Riverfront Renaissance spokesman stated, "temporary' is measured in decades in Cincinnati."

As of the meeting, the ODOT representatives stated that they had not come to a conclusion on which Cincinnati site they would choose to include in the October 2nd proposal. However, Jason from Somewhere Over-the-Rhine cites an article from the Enquirer stating that the backlash from this open forum meeting prompted officials to choose the Lunken Airport site as opposed to the eastern riverfront area.

There are obvious drawbacks to this site as well, the most obvious being its distance from the Cincinnati's center city and its attractions and accommodations for business and leisure travelers alike. There is also the issue of being so far away from the existing Amtrak service that connects Cincinnati with Indianapolis and Chicago to the west, and Washington D.C. to the east - both of which run out of Cincinnati's Union Terminal in Queensgate.

What are your thoughts?


JonWhite40 said...

I'm not sure about the logistics or the added costs, but I think ultimately the best place for train station is right there at the transit hub they built between the stadiums at The Banks (I thought they built that transit hub with the intention to have passenger rail go through it any how?) Plus with the first phase of the streetcar line going to the transit hub and not to Union Terminal I think it makes more sense for tourists to be able to explore Cincy without a car. And I think The Banks will be much more of a destination than Union Terminal. I get that Union Terminal is part of Cincinnati's rail history, but I think
The Banks will become the heart of the city. Also I think most folks coming from up north initially will be using the train to goto sporting events so I think with that in mind it would make more sense to have it at The Banks.

Allister Sears said...

It definitely needs to be somewhere that tourists can get to the heart of the city without a car. Visitors are unlikely to research Metro routes going from Lunken in advance, and while car rental could be an option, if they wanted one while they were in town, they could have just driven their car down.

Personally I'd prefer to see Union Terminal as the main stop. It obviously has it's historic value, and it could be a good be a good way to foster development from Union Terminal back to Central Parkway.

Allister Sears said...
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Allister Sears said...
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Quimbob said...

I fear Mt Adams NIMBYs may have just killed the southern leg of the route.
There is a good discussion of the meeting here. One of the hosts attended the meeting.

John Schneider said...

It needs to get to Cincinnati Union Terminal asap. Lunken's OK for a couple of years until the freight congestion in the Mill Creek Valley can be cured by building a fourth main.

The Riverfront Transit Center wasn't designed to handle long diesel trains, but electric light rail or streetcars would be fine.

Quimbob said...

"The Riverfront Transit Center wasn't designed to handle long diesel trains, but electric light rail or streetcars would be fine."
How long are the passenger trains ? When you say long, I think of those mile long freight monstrosities.

5chw4r7z said...

I think they're making a mistake with baby steps. A 79mph train that takes 6 hours to Cleveland?
Then all the CAVE men will wave that as a flag when no one rides it.
We they say high speed I'm thinking 180+ with a 2 hour ride to Cleveland, that's something I'd get on board with.

James Ramey said...

Why is Union Terminal not the primary site for this? Maybe it doesn't work out logistically, but logically it makes the most sense for someone to hop on an Amtrak train at only ONE location in Cincinnati, not two. Can someone elaborate on this?

Sutcliffe said...

They can't use Union Terminal as it would add another hour to the trip to Cleveland. Queensgate is that congested.

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