Great Lakes Journal: $500 million worth of rail fever

Less than a hundred years ago, Ohio was crisscrossed with passenger-rail lines and thousands of miles of electric interurbans, shuttling its residents between the countryside and big cities. The introduction of the auto made those obsolete. Now the state is in frenzied pursuit of federal stimulus money to return rail service to the state.

The question is, will we use it? Ohio hired Amtrak to study the feasibility of its Quick Start plan, an eight-train-a-day passenger service connecting Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland and using existing rails at modest speeds. Last week, Amtrak unveiled its findings, including an estimate that 478,000 riders a year would use the service, spending $12 million for the privilege. The full 225-mile route, from the Ohio River to Lake Erie, is projected to take around six hours, versus a drive time of four hours and 50 minutes on Greyhound. Ticket price estimates, based on those of the Chicago-St. Louis train, range from $23 to $60.

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