Proposal could bring high speed passenger rail to central Ohio

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Did you know Columbus is one of the largest cities in the country without any passenger rail?

Plans to bring a fast train from Chicago to Columbus are moving forward, but the key city in central Ohio still isn’t on board.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association, an outspoken supporter of the passenger rail project said, “Columbus really needs to get in the game.” It said if Columbus doesn’t get on board with the plan it could suffer economically.

Imagine being able to get on a train in downtown Columbus or at the airport and being in Chicago in less than four hours. It could soon be a reality under the rail plan that would have trains going back and forth from Chicago to Columbus at up to 110 mph.

“Oh, I like that idea. I’ve been to Chicago and it’s a long drive,” said Columbus resident Craig Kelley.

READ MORE: Columbus to Cleveland in 12 minutes? Hyperloop could make it possible

Monday, cities along the route from Lima, Ohio to northwest Indiana announced they were moving forward with funding a crucial study, the first step to making the rail line a reality. Columbus and Marysville aren’t included.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission said, “The Lima to Columbus portion of the Phase 1 Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is currently being considered by the regional partners. It has not been financed at this time and there is interest in pursuing it in 2017.”

It also said a previous feasibility study in 2013 was supported by the city of Columbus.

Elissa Schneider with Transit Columbus, a local transportation advocacy group, said Columbus only stands to benefit from a passenger rail line.

“I think this is a real opportunity for Columbus and I’d love for us to be involved,” said Schneider.

Schneider said a petition Transit Columbus started, now with 10,000 signatures, proves it’s what residents want.

“I think we’re a growing city and we need to invest for our future. If we want to be a 21st century city, rail needs to be included.”

Greg Lawson with the Buckeye Institute, an independent research and educational institution, said rail lines like the one proposed come with their own set of concerns.

“They never come in on budget, they’re always over budget and the other problem is once they finally come in, they don’t typically move the number of people they were projected to move,” said Lawson

We reached out to Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther asking if he supports the rail project.

A spokesman gave us this statement, “Mayor Ginther is committed the future of mobility through the Smart Columbus initiative. He will be focusing his transportation efforts on smart logistics, expanded mobility options and an  environmentally sustainable transportation system here in Columbus.”

We won’t know how much the project could cost until the studies are done.

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