Contact Us!

Please note as of Dec. 1, 2014, All Aboard Ohio moved its statewide offices to Cleveland’s public transportation and retail hub, Tower City Center! Our new mailing address is:

All Aboard Ohio
230 West Huron Road #85.53
Cleveland, OH 44113

Our telephone number remains (844) 464-7245, a toll-free number you may better remember as 844-GO4-RAIL. Our e-mail address continues to be info@allaboardohio.org for general inquiries.

 

Want up-to-the minute news, updates?

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YOU TUBE. It’s easy. Just click on the above logos or the links in this text to go to All Aboard Ohio’s social media pages. Simply join us or follow us. If you haven’t registered for Facebook or Twitter, take a moment to sign up.

You’ll enjoy instant news on rail travel discounts or special packages, travel tips, rail and transit service interruptions, local/state/federal policy issues, discussion and dialogue from around Ohio, the U.S. and even the world. For more in-depth news, dues-paying members receive the quarterly Ohio Passenger Rail News. Click HERE (5mb PDF) for a free sample of our newsletter. Please join All Aboard Ohio if you think this flow of information is important and you want it to continue. With your support, it will!

A busy May of AAO events!

It’s going to be a busy May for All Aboard Ohio! Come to one of these events, all of which are open to the public. Only the Annual Meeting incurs a small registration fee, but you’ll get well-fed!

May 2: CINCINNATI/Southwest Ohio Spring Meeting — Monday, May 2, 6 pm at Pi Pizzeria, 199 E 6th St, downtown Cincinnati. Agenda & details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/270796169922066/

May 7: TOLEDO/National Train Day — Saturday, May 7, 9:30 am-4 pm, MLK Plaza/Amtrak station, 300 Martin Luther King Jr., Toledo. All Aboard Ohio is a proud sponsor! Attractions, events & details here: http://www.tmacog.org/National_Train_Day_Toledo.htm

May 14: CLEVELAND/AAO Local Meeting — Saturday, May 14, 10 am-12 noon, Conference room above the AAO office in the Sustainable Cleveland Center, Tower City Center (230 West Huron, downtown), above foot court and across from Hard Rock Cafe. Contact Ken Prendergast at 216-288-4883. Agenda: Amtrak expansion, Lakefront Multimodal Transportation Center update, NEO transit update.

May 14: COLUMBUS/AAO Local Meeting — Saturday, May 14, 10 am-12 noon, Grandview Heights Public Library, 1685 W. First Ave., Columbus. Contact Larry Robertson at 614-459-0359. Agenda: Transportation Planning in Central Ohio, reports on meetings attended and more.

May 21: COLUMBUS/AAO ANNUAL MEETING — Saturday, May 21, 10 am to 2 pm (registration at 9:30 am) Spaghetti Warehouse, 397 W. Broad St., Columbus. Late registration after May 18? Contact: Ken Prendergast at 216-288-4883. Pay online at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/all-aboard-ohio-annual-meeting-2016-tickets-21608607928?aff=eac2

Annual Meeting agenda: former AAO Chairman Ron Sheck PhD–“The Way It Was: 50+ years of riding trains across Ohio”; Josh Lapp, Vice Chair, Transit Columbus–“Central Ohio rail/transit planning update.” AAO elections, updates, board meeting, continental breakfast, lunch. Registration for members: $25 per head of party & $15 for each additional person in your party. Non-members $35 per attendee, including 2016 membership in All Aboard Ohio. Members should see their latest newsletter for more details.

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One-fourth of 3C may be downgraded

In early 2016, a CSX doublestack intermodal container train rolls through Columbus' Clintonville neighborhood. Scenes like this could soon become history if CSX reroutes through freight trains off this line and downgrades the track to lesser standards. This line has been targeted for passenger rail service linking Ohio's largest cities. All Aboard Ohio urges public agencies to maintain and preserve this rail corridor in its current condition or better. [Stu Nicholson photo]

In early 2016, a CSX doublestack intermodal container train rolls through Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood. Scenes like this could soon become history if CSX reroutes through freight trains off this line and downgrades the track to lesser standards. This line has been targeted for passenger rail service linking Ohio’s largest cities. All Aboard Ohio urges public agencies to maintain and preserve this rail corridor in its current condition or better. [Stu Nicholson photo]

All Aboard Ohio has learned from multiple sources that CSX may downgrade its 60-mile Galion-Columbus section (called the Columbus Line Subdivision) of the Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (3C) Corridor as early as this year. This represents nearly one-fourth of the total route-miles of the overall, 255-mile 3C Corridor.

Downgrading could include turning off and possibly removing the automatic block signal system and not maintaining the track to Class 4 standards (60 mph for freight, 80 mph for passenger). In time, these actions may result in the track on the Columbus Line Subdivision being re-classified as Class 2 track (25 mph for freight, 30 mph for passenger). CSX has yet to announce anything officially.

In anticipation of an announcement, the All Aboard Ohio Board of Directors on April 12 voted unanimously on a policy statement urging regional and state public agencies, authorities and commission “to maintain and preserve the 3C Corridor rail infrastructure in its current condition or better.”

“Local, state and federal officials should be forewarned that there is an uncertain future for this important rail corridor that directly links the largest metropolitan areas in the nation’s seventh-most populous state,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of the nonprofit rail and transit advocacy association All Aboard Ohio. “The State of Ohio, port authorities and transit agencies in our state have a pretty good record in recent decades of preserving and improving vital rail corridors for the future. We believe that experience should be brought to this important rail corridor, too.”

All Aboard Ohio also has learned CSX may lease the Columbus Line Sub to a shortline/regional operator. Genesee & Wyoming is a likely candidate considering G&W already has a base of operations in Columbus and because CSX’s highest-volume shipper on the Columbus Line Sub is Anheuser-Busch in Worthington, just north of Columbus.

Why is this happening? CSX is saving money by consolidating shrinking rail freight traffic onto fewer rail lines, especially where parallel lines exist. CSX has recently operated about 5-10 trains a day over the Columbus Line Sub, resulting in just enough gross tonnage of traffic to trigger a federal mandate for installing Positive Train Control. The federal requirement for PTC comes into play on rail lines hosting more than 5 million gross tons of traffic annually, or regular passenger service, or shipments of materials considered a Toxic by Inhalation Hazard (TIH).

Installing this interactive traffic control system involves equipping locomotives with transponders and installing trackside communications, power supplies, cables and other features to complete a PTC system. It is costly to install and maintain. All CSX locomotives are being equipped with PTC, so for the 60-mile Columbus-Galion line, this installation is likely limited to a trackside investment. But that investment, which averages about $100,000 per track-mile depending on local conditions, could be a $6 million expenditure for CSX along the Columbus-Galion line.

If it had no other routing alternatives to reach Central Ohio or southern states, CSX probably would make this investment. But they do have alternatives. It can reach Columbus via their Mt. Victory (Greenwich-Bellefontaine) and Scottslawn (Ridgeway-Columbus) subdivisions. And they can reach the southern states by continuing west of Bellefontaine to Sidney, then south on CSX’s Toledo Subdivision to Dayton, Cincinnati and Dixie. Those are high-quality mainline corridors that are being equipped with PTC. There are also high-quality, interlocked (i.e., dispatcher-controlled) track connections in the southeast quadrants of the Ridgeway and Sidney junctions that will permit Galion-Columbus and Galion-Dixie trains to avoid the 3C line south of Galion without much if any infrastructure modifications.

CSX map-2010

CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE

There are several implications from downgrading this section. Not only would this complicate any future efforts to restore passenger rail service on the 3C Corridor, it might also hurt ongoing efforts to get Columbus-Chicago passenger rail service via the Columbus-Marysville-Ridgeway (Scottslawn) portion of the route. It would also put more freight trains into the path of Amtrak’s Cardinal from Hamilton, Ohio to Cincinnati. It could complicate efforts to expand the thrice-weekly Cardinal to daily service. Less freight traffic on the 3C line means more freight traffic on the Scottslawn and Toledo subdivisions. That may mean adding more capacity such as new passing sidings or possibly a longer section of double-track to accommodate new or expanded passenger services.

Less freight traffic could be an opportunity for 3C someday, especially if CSX is willing to sell the Columbus Line Sub to a public entity like the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) or maybe the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). Fifteen years ago, COTA had an agreement with CSX to acquire the Columbus Line Sub as part of a quid pro quo. COTA would build for CSX an intermodal terminal near Marion and CSX would transfer the Columbus Line Sub to COTA for use as the North Corridor light-rail transit. Alas, that deal fell through when Franklin County voters turned down a levy to fund a regional light-rail system.

The North Corridor is Central Ohio’s busiest commuting corridor and 3C Corridor remains as one of the most promising intercity passenger rail corridors in the nation that has yet to gain passenger service. Someday, a passenger rail operator or a public agency on the passenger operator’s behalf could lease the Columbus Line Sub. How much might that cost? Since 2012, Amtrak has leased 85 miles of CSX-owned corridor from Hoffmans, NY just west of Schenectady to Poughkeepsie, NY in five-year renewable terms at $7 million per year. Another possibility is an outright purchase. In 2011, the Michigan Department of Transportation acquired from NS its 136-mile rail corridor between Kalamazoo-Dearborn for $140 million. That roughly $1 million-per-mile price tag is comparable to other recent rail corridor purchases.

If 3C passenger service were already operating on this line, CSX’s pending action to downgrade the Columbus Line Sub could be seen as a threat or as an opportunity. We would be fretting how CSX is endangering the 3C passenger service by threatening to orphan the Columbus Line Sub and dump all the costs of PTC and track maintenance on the passenger service.

But if someone was willing to pay those costs, All Aboard Ohio would be making the case that this portion of the 3C could now be elevated to 110 mph service, and even offer Columbus-Delaware commuter rail in this absence of mainline freight traffic. Indeed, these opportunities will always remain just that — opportunities — until they are achieved or unless the right of way is abandoned and sold off piecemeal.

In the state’s $400 million, 79 mph 3C Quick Start plan that was derailed in 2010 by Gov.-Elect John Kasich, three stations were proposed to be located on the Columbus Line Sub:

  • Galion (to be located on Parson Street, south of the historic Big Four Depot that’s on CSX’s busier Mt. Victory Sub);
  • Columbus Crosswoods just north of I-270; and
  • Columbus Downtown at High Street near the Convention Center.

There also have been 3C plans in the past to establish a station in Delaware on a track that deviates from the 3C mainline located east of town and loops through the center of Delaware. That track is operated as a 6-mile-long passing siding for the Columbus Line Sub. It wasn’t included in the state’s 3C Quick Start project because of travel time and capital cost constraints. It would likely have been included in the state’s follow-on upgrade of 3C to 110 mph that would add more trains, including locals and expresses. But the planning funds for the 110 mph upgrade also were killed by Gov.-Elect Kasich.

Ironically, if PTC was installed on the Galion-Columbus portion, it would provide the type of interactive signal system necessary to allow passenger trains to exceed the federal 79 mph limit. For now, the tracks are probably good for 79 mph but crossing circuits for flashers/gates at road crossings would need to be lengthened for 79 mph speeds at about $50,000 per crossing. There is an average of one at-grade road crossing per mile of track. For 110 mph, additional infrastructure improvements would be needed. To achieve that higher speed, a unit cost of $5 million per track-mile may be applied, or roughly $300 million for Galion-Columbus. But 90 mph might be had for slightly more than the price tag of 79 mph passenger rail service because few additional track or grade crossing enhancements would be needed.

Until 1999, the 3C Corridor had one owner – Conrail. Before Conrail it was owned by Penn-Central (1968-76) which operated the last 3C passenger trains. Before Penn-Central it was owned by and New York Central. Now the corridor is divided among multiple owners. Even among the same owners, it is subdivided into multiple operating lines. The southern half of 3C, south of Columbus, is owned mostly by Norfolk Southern (NS). North of Columbus, it is owned mostly by CSX.

The Columbus Line Sub is only one of three segments into which CSX has divided the Columbus-Cleveland half of the 3C Corridor. North of Galion to Greenwich (23 miles) is CSX’s Mt. Victory Sub that is part of CSX’s overall corridor west to Indianapolis and St. Louis that sees about 30 freight trains a day. North of Greenwich to Berea (40 miles) is CSX’s Greenwich Sub that is part of CSX’s overall corridor east to Buffalo and the Northeast and west to Chicago and has traffic to/from St. Louis. It sees about 60 trains a day.

Berea to downtown Cleveland (12 miles) is owned by Norfolk Southern, as is almost all of the southern half of 3C from Columbus to the north side of Cincinnati. To reach a station near downtown Cincinnati, either CSX tracks could be used to reach Cincinnati Union Terminal or the Indiana & Ohio’s tracks could be used to reach a station near the Boathouse/Sawyer Point area. The latter was the most recent 3C plan.

The longer that a rail corridor is devoid of passenger rail service, the harder it is for passenger rail service to be restored to it. Stations decay or are demolished. Rail traffic patterns change. Ownership changes. And now a significant section of the line may be downgraded. All Aboard Ohio hopes that a new tenant for the Columbus Line Sub will take care of this important rail line until such time that Ohio gains a government that embraces multi-modal transportation policies.

END

April 2016 e-Edition newsletter

Cover of April 2016 newsletter. Click the link below to view the newsletter (2.2mb PDF).

Cover of April 2016 newsletter. Click the link below to view the newsletter (2.2mb PDF).

 

Download the April 2016 issue CLICK HERE to read the following stories:

  • Toledo Train Day continues to be one of the nation’s largest!
  • Riding trains means writing Congress
  • Columbus is a Smart Cities national finalist
  • Cincinnati Streetcar “burn-in” tests start
  • Cleveland transit experiences a busy springtime
  • Cleveland intermodal design funds are sought
  • Illustration of the Month
  • Reminder about AAO’s Annual Meeting May 21

Please contact us at info@allaboardohio.org if you have any difficulties downloading the newsletter or if you have any comments or questions. Thank you!

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March 2016 e-Edition newsletter

Cover of March 2016 newsletter. Click the link below to view the newsletter (1.6mb PDF).

Cover of March 2016 newsletter. Click the link below to view the newsletter (1.6mb PDF).

Download the March 2016 issue CLICK HERE to read the following stories:

  • Midwest multi-state passenger rail plan to ID promising routes
  • Ohio gas tax hike? Will transit benefit?
  • Cleveland not the only city with transit needs
  • Ann Arbor advances light-rail planning
  • Philadelphia was where Cleveland is, now look…
  • Pittsburgh-Altoona commuter rail progresses
  • Illustration of the Month
  • Board candidates up for vote at May 21 meeting

Please contact us at info@allaboardohio.org if you have any difficulties downloading the newsletter or if you have any comments or questions. Thank you!

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