Contact: Ken Prendergast,
Board members and staff of the nonprofit rail advocacy association All Aboard Ohio were saddened and shocked to learn today of the death of James Seney, former executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission. He and a former high school classmate, Robert Foster, were killed Saturday in a boating accident at Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada, according to the Toledo Blade. A third man was injured.
Mr. Seney, 71, led ORDC from 2000-2006 under then-Gov. Bob Taft. He was mayor of the Toledo suburb Sylvania from 1977-1995. He also worked for former All Aboard Ohio board member Barry Fromm at Value Recovery Group Inc. from 2007-10. Then in 2010 Mr. Seney was elected vice chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party and re-elected two months ago.
“Jim Seney was a pragmatic visionary,” said All Aboard Ohio Chairman Ron Sheck of Toledo. “It was his leadership that brought us the Ohio Hub System plan and the bipartisan support for it. He understood the political and economic benefits of jointly developing rail infrastructure for freight and passengers. And he knew that it needed to be regional and evolutionary, growing from a single 79-mph route linking Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati to a network of progressively higher-speed routes connecting Ohio to its neighboring states and Canada.”
Michigan and Illinois are currently implementing similar higher-speed rail projects that will improve rail travel and add freight shipping capacity in the Midwest.
The Ohio Hub System plan would create a 1200-mile network of 110-mph passenger trains and enhanced freight rail infrastructure to link the improving Midwest and East Coast-based rail systems. Mr. Seney’s ability to garner bipartisan support was evidenced by the Ohio Senate’s 33-0 vote in 2006 for Senate Concurrent Resolution #30 that endorsed seeking federal funds for developing the Ohio Hub System.
“He was able to unify Democrats and Republicans around something that both parties could agree on – the need for more and better jobs,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast of Cleveland. “Not only did he have a grand vision, he was able to get all kinds of interests – from highway contractors to environmentalists – to support it by focusing on the importance of jobs, sustainable economic development and how it would benefit all Ohioans.”
“His family and immediate friends are hurting the most from the sudden and tragic loss of this man,” Prendergast added. “But the rest of Ohio will miss him, too. It needs more people like Jim Seney, not less. I only hope that his death will motivate more people to follow in his footsteps and pursue Jim Seney’s dream in the same inclusive and determined manner in which he pursued it.”
Please also see the 2006 ORDC press release issued at the time of Mr. Seney’s retirement, detailing more of his lasting accomplishments.