The city of Marysville has joined with a coalition of municipalities and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission on an environmental impact study for a high-speed passenger rail line from Columbus to Chicago.
In an Aug. 14 report, Marysville Mayor John Gore said the project will help Ohio be more competitive in the global economy.
"This type of long-term planning simply makes good economic sense," Gore said in a news release issued by MORPC.
"As we strategically plan for future economic development in Marysville and Union County, a high-speed passenger rail service that provides regular service to Port Columbus and to Chicago mean ongoing opportunities for existing business growth through retention, expansion and recruitment. And that's huge for our community, the region and the entire state of Ohio," he said.
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said the project, dubbed the Columbus to Chicago High-Speed Passenger Rail Corridor, would promote regional growth.
"Creating another transportation link from Columbus to Chicago is important for our region's economic future," Coleman said in the announcement.
"Chicago is the largest economic center of the Midwest, which represents a nearly $3 trillion annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shared among the 9 states in the original Midwestern Regional Rail Initiative. The greater Columbus market, totaling over 1.8 million people, is the largest metropolitan city without high-speed passenger rail service."
The cost to build and maintain the proposed corridor is still being calculated, said MORPC Executive Director William Murdock, but the commission and the participating municipalities are ready for the next phase of due diligence.
"With the leadership of the cities along the proposed route in Ohio and Indiana, the memorandum of agreement (MOA) formalizes already significant collaboration across states to diligently review this new transportation corridor," Murdock said in the announcement.
A coalition of Ohio and Indiana municipalities, planning agencies and businesses partnered to fund a feasibility study and business plan for a regional, 11-city, 300-mile passenger rail corridor between Columbus and Chicago through Fort Wayne, Ind.
Marysville, Kenton and Lima would be the additional Ohio stops on the route.
The study, released in 2013, was completed by Transportation Economics & Management Systems. The next step is to undertake an environmental impact study, as required by the Federal Railroad Administration.
The participating jurisdictions along the route have agreed to execute an MOA to formalize their cooperation, including identifying shared public and private funding, according to MORPC.
In addition to the Ohio cities, the participating Indiana cities include Fort Wayne, Warsaw, Plymouth, Valparaiso and Gary.
According to the business plan, the service would have 12 trains a day with at least four express trains. It would be run by a private operator and would not require annual government subsidies.
According to the 2013 feasibility study, the proposed service would have Chicago-to-Columbus travel times ranging from three hours and 45 minutes for express service to four hours for local service.
The study said benefits of the rail line would include:
* An estimated 2.1 million riders in 2020, which would increase to more than 3.3 million by 2040.
* An estimated 12,000 temporary construction jobs and 26,800 permanent jobs.
* An estimated $6 billion of increased output for the region's businesses.