CP NGK Volume 1: Can We Fix This?

(Pictures from August 2020 trip to Harper’s Ferry WVA; on Amtrak platform; safely off right of way)

CP NGK

An ongoing conversation, observations and points on current status of Railroads and Transportation

(An Op-Ed on current events. All opinions are the authors. No opinions reflect the thoughts of admins of Ohio Valley Rails or contributors of the Ohio Railroader Website.)

Volume 1: Can We Fix This?

The Infrastructure Quagmire 

By Giles Kennedy

Chief Editor The Ohio Railroader Website

Chief Admin Ohio Valley Rails FB Page

Let’s get one thing straight.

We are not Albania. Nor are we Bulgaria.

But by any means of the imagination; our infrastructure is a hot mess.

Not just railroads.

Highways, power grid and such is quite frankly organized and well built in some parts in the United States.

In other places in the U.S.; a windstorm comes and knocks out power to an overworked substation…a entire city, village or township is koaed.

How does this impact railroad transportation?

More ways than you realize.

In order to have smooth running railways; you need smooth running supply chains to get products to the railroads when not on the rails.

At least according to an article on CNBC from 2019; Ohio happens to rank 4 in the nation.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/10/5-states-with-the-best-infrastructure-in-america-in-2019.html

Overall; I can’t argue with that standing.

Even with progressive railroading, NIMBY fights with communities, and Ohio’s status of only having 3 Amtrak trains into its borders; it surely could be worse.

2019 Infrastructure score: 221 out of 350 points (Top States grade: A-)

US population within 500 miles: 105,322,087

Average commute to work: 24.8 minutes (U.S. average: 26.4 minutes)

Bridges in poor condition: 4.3%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 12%

20-year water-system needs: $8.8 billion

Surprisingly neighboring states Indiana and Kentucky outranked in 2019. They probably still do.

Kentucky Ranked number 2 in 2019

2019 Infrastructure score: 231 out of 350 points (Top States grade: A)

US population within 500 miles: 114,706,970

Average commute to work: 23.1 minutes

Bridges in poor condition: 7.1%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 6.8%

20-year water-system needs: $8.2 billion

And of course Indiana ranked number 1 in 2019….

2019 Infrastructure score: 241 out of 350 points (Top States grade: A+)

US population within 500 miles: 109,073,615

Average commute to work: 23.4 minutes

Bridges in poor condition: 6.2%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 9.4%

20-year water-system needs: $7.5 billion

So show you the positive; what about the room for improvement?

  1. Regional passenger rail needs improvement in Ohio, Kentucky period.
  2. Current infrastructure with rail must be maintained
  3. Vast improvement on rail service must be outside the box

Let’s look at the surrounding states that have it right.

Indiana; for example.

Even losing the Hoosier State; they are south of Chicago.

Existing Amtrak service connects with the rest of the nation. Plus, doesn’t hurt to have one of the last interurbans “technically” still running. The Chicago, South Bend and South Shore Railroad; on top of being a freight provider; has existing and expanding rail service.

Pennsylvania. They have no choice.

Being their close proximity to the Northeast Corridor; their passenger service and regional rail corridors work.

SEPTA and the Port Authority of Allegheny County have operated and serviced their population.

Michigan has their own Amtrak service. Again; with connections to Chicago and being part of Amtrak Midwest, they keep and expand their services.

So; why doesn’t Ohio have better passenger rail?

State government has shot improvements and expansion down. It is local governments, advocacy groups such as All Aboard Ohio, and private individuals who have lobbied hard.

The culture of Ohio is automotive based; so if you can’ t convince the general public…it would not happen.

But two bright spots in Ohio show some promise.

Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority has continued to apply, improve and expand light rail service.

Although ridership has fluctuated; it has been in use for over 50 years. The trend continues with local communities wishing to develop businesses around existing and new “Rapid” stations.

The Streetcar that wouldn’t die lives in Cincinnati,

The current route is limited but ridership has grown. Political forces attempted to derail; if not mothball it after completion.

Queen City Metro’s partnership with Cincinnati Bell gave metro Cincinnati the Cincinnati Bell Connector.

I have personally ridden it. It is clean, quiet and convenient 

Many folks who visit and work Over the Rhine and Downtown use it on a daily basis.

So, since we covered points one and two; let us cover point three.

We must think outside of the box.

Hyperloop is outside the box but not realistic.

All Aboard Ohio teaming up with the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance is by far the best option.

However, funding and a semi-private/semi-public group of investors would need to step up.

Richard Branson or a visionary investment group would be ideal. But at this point and time; it would not be realistic.

Can it happen? Yes.

Will it happen anytime soon? No.

What can we do?

Keep supporting All Aboard Ohio, NARP and other groups who can put traction to the plans.

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