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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Improved Rail Service in NEO Could Happpen, But Not Soon

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 10:54 AM

The scenic route to work.
  • The scenic route to work.

When millions of dollars in federal money earmarked for Ohio inter-city rail fell apart last year, the dreams of train-loving commuters looked dead on the tracks. Now a new plan has emerged that could lead to rail service between Akron and Cleveland someday.

According to transportation planners and rail advocates, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad line — best known as a pleasant recreational outing and not a very good way to actually get anywhere — has the potential to be used for regular commuter service.

In fact, it’s already happening: A handful of passengers use the Scenic Railroad to go to school and work, according to Ken Prendergast of All Aboard Ohio, which pitched the idea to the Scenic Railroad and Akron Metro RTA this week. He calls it “the most heavily used passenger rail service in Ohio,” with 189,000 annual riders.

Expanding service north to downtown Cleveland would surely boost those figures. Though the necessary track already exists, it’s currently used only a few times a week to haul materials into Cleveland’s steel mills.

One problem: The folks who own 50 miles of track don’t see it happening.

“We’re always looking at transportation options, and that’s one of them,” says Molly Becker of Akron RTA. “But it’s years out because of funding issues and planning issues. It’s definitely a viable option, but it’s not in the near future.” — Anastasia Pantios

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