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I get this question.... a lot.

I get that. It shows me most Ohioans want the option of traveling by fast, frequent, and timely passenger trains.

It also shows an impatience born of decades of hopes raised and crushed. No fewer than eight passenger rail studies, dating back to the late 1970s occupy a dusty shelf somewhere at the Offices of the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC). Not that they were necessarily bad plans. In most cases, they were stillborn because of the lack of political will.

“People will never get out of their cars”, they said.

“I can go anywhere I want in my car”, they said.

“Trains are too slow”, they said.

“The train only serves my city when I’m asleep”, they said.

“We shouldn’t be subsidizing trains”, they said.

I actually had a guy threaten me over the phone when I worked for the ORDC, saying, “You better not take funding away from my highways!” followed by a few expletives not worth repeating.

That last one happened during a time when it seemed like we finally had political momentum to get a passenger rail plan underway.

It started with GOP Governor Bob Taft asking the ORDC to develop a statewide network of passenger rail corridors with trains eventually running up to 110 MPH: not true high-speed rail but certainly competitive with driving a car. It was called “The Ohio Hub Plan”.

Democratic Governor Ted Strickland came into office and liked The Ohio Hub Plan. He asked if one corridor could be pulled from the plan and developed independently. It could and the ORDC created the “3C&D” Corridor Plan. In late 2009, the plan won a $400 million-dollar Federal Railroad Administration grant. We were rolling ahead. Detailed studies got started and the plans were for the first trains to begin operating in late 2014 or early 2015.

Then, as it happens, the political winds changed. Then-candidate John Kasich stated the 3C&D plan was dead in its tracks if he became Governor. Other GOP members of the General Assembly dubbed it “Governor Strickland’s Slow Train”, coined by a GOP State Senator who literally (and illegally) texted “I’m traveling faster than the Governor’s slow train” while driving her car to Columbus.

Kasich was true to his word, stopping the 3C&D project dead, sending the funding back to Washington, and forbidding even the mention of the words “passenger rail” among ORDC staff.

Can you blame Ohioans for being a bit skeptical of the latest Amtrak plans to expand service in our state? But something happened that was very different from the plans of the early 2000s.

Congress passed the Jobs and Infrastructure Act, and it was signed into law by President Biden.

Suddenly, it wasn’t states like Ohio acting like characters from a Charles Dickens novel saying, “Please sir...” and begging for scraps of funding to get a state-supported startup passenger rail corridor up and running.

Amtrak and the FRA showed up at our doors saying, “Hey... we’ve got $66.3 billion dollars for developing passenger rail. Want some?”

I’m simplifying things, of course. But that’s essentially what happened.

Amtrak produced “visionary” maps of possible new corridors and expansion of service to multiple trains per day in existing corridors where (at least in Northern Ohio) trains only stopped at “Zero-Dark-Thirty Hours” and even a route that serves Southern Ohio three times a week in each direction. One longtime All Aboard Ohio member once said, “Amtrak treats Ohioans like their vampires.”

Holy cow! Wait! You mean we could have trains in the daytime? Yes, was the answer in news stories that broke in January of 2021. Almost a year and a half later, look at what’s changed.

  • GOP Governor Mike DeWine, a longtime supporter of Amtrak when he served in the US Congress, finally answered with a “yes” to the FRA and ordered the ORDC to apply for planning grants to study passenger rail in two corridors: the 3C&D and Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit

  • Several Ohio metro planning organizations officially filed “expression of interest” under the FRA’s Corridor Identification Program: nominating eight more corridors, including a joint plan to connect Chicago-Fort Wayne-Lima-Columbus-Pittsburgh (The Midwest Connect Corridor) and Detroit-Toledo-Columbus.

  • Separate grant applications have been filed by two of the MPOs for the Midwest Connect and for corridors between Cleveland and Chicago, Cleveland to Buffalo, and Cleveland to Pittsburgh.

  • Several station-stop communities are applying for grants to improve station facilities and tracks. Most of those are also looking at how they will plan to develop land and existing buildings around those stations.

Lots of good news. But there’s still that lingering feeling in the backs of our minds. Is this really gonna happen? I get that, too. I was there for the whole “Kasich sent the $400 million back to Washington” thing.

I have one young man who emails me regularly: terrified that history will repeat itself.

But one of the big differences between then and now is this. It’s YOU!

Of course, All Aboard Ohio pushed the currently named “Amtrak Connects US” plan. We were on this from the moment it was announced in 2021 and we’ve last counted the meetings and media interviews we’ve been a part of since then... and still are.

But YOU made the big difference. When we asked for Ohioans to let Governor DeWine know we wanted more and better trains for Ohio.... you responded... big!.. and to the point where we found out that the Governor’s staff was fielding a huge wave of calls. He heard you, Ohio.

And state legislators on both sides are hearing from you. Both GOP and Democratic legislators in both houses of the General Assembly have initiated contact with All Aboard Ohio asking us for more information about passenger rail and what it could mean for their districts.

That’s why we’re asking for you to call or email your state legislators and let them know you support passenger rail and why you support it. Here’s how to connect with them......

One last thing. Let’s all manage our expectations. As much progress as we’ve seen, this is not something that is going to happen overnight. It may take 4 to 5 years for trains to start running.

Keep the pressure on the Governor and legislators to support every step of the process. That's our most important task from now until we can step on board the “Ohio State Limited”, the “Midwest Express” or whatever that first train is named. We will get there.

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Members of the Board of Directors will be elected at All Aboard Ohio’s annual meeting on July 15.

Any member of All Aboard Ohio in good standing is welcome to run for election to the Board of Directors. A member in good standing is one who is current on their annual dues.

Our Board of Directors has 15 members: 11 serve at large and four are Regional Directors, elected by members who live within their region. The regions are:

1. Northwest: ZIP codes 43301-43699, 44801-44999, 45801-45899;

2. Northeast: ZIP codes 44001-44799;

3. Central and Southeast: ZIP codes 43001-43299, 43701-43999, 45601-45799;

4. Southwest: ZIP codes 45001-45599.


A Board of Directors creates policy, develops high-level strategy, and handles accountability for the organization. AAO’s Board is considered an activist board: In addition to being a member in good standing, each Director must attend at least 50% of our monthly Board Meetings, participate on at least one committee, and attend train-related activities (if any) in their geographic area.


To run for a Board of Directors position, please submit your name, address, contact information, and a 100-word statement about why you wish to serve. Send these items to our Elections Committee at The deadline to submit these items is May 31. No late applications can be accepted.


Members in good standing may vote in person at our annual meeting, via online ballot, or by mail using the ballot, we send out in our June newsletter.

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When the United States entered the fight in World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is famous for saying, “It may not be the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.”

The battle (if you will) for expanding passenger rail in Ohio made a big step forward when Governor Mike DeWine stepped up and ordered the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) to apply for funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for a planning study of two rail corridors:

  • Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (better known as the 3C&D)

  • Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit (which parallels two of the busiest Interstate Highway corridors in the USA)

At this writing, the applications have been submitted to the FRA. So, we can all breathe easy and wait, right?


In fact, my emails, texts and conversations with advocates are peppered with questions about “what do we do, now?”

We keep up the fight. We are at Churchill’s “end of the beginning”. Now we begin pushing toward what for us will be a victory: the development of a statewide network of fast, frequent, timely and reliable intercity passenger trains.

A network? From two rail corridors? Hardly. But consider that Ohio’s metropolitan planning organizations (MPO’s, for short) are also applying for FRA planning grants for a total of 4 more corridors.

The Columbus-based Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) is supporting applications for both the 3C&D corridor and a second new corridor that would connect Columbus with Chicago and Pittsburgh. It’s called the “Midwest Connect”.

The Northern Ohio Area Coordinating Agency (NOACA), based in Cleveland is applying for FRA planning grants for expanding service in these three corridors:

  • Cleveland-Pittsburgh

  • Cleveland-Toledo-Chicago

  • Cleveland-Erie-Buffalo

Professional transportation planners and civic leaders are thinking ahead to what is possible for our future in Ohio and the Midwest / Great Lakes region.

Our job, as advocates, is to let them know we have their backs. Let the leaders at NOACA and MORPC that you support what they’re doing in a letter or email. And while you’re at it, let your Mayors, city councils and state legislator’s know as well. Educate them. Tell them your story about why you want the option of traveling by train to connect with whatever your need may be.

And if you’ve got a good story to tell, consider writing it down and submitting to us at All Aboard Ohio for our e-newsletter. Even if your rail trip was less than ideal, we want to hear about the good and the bad so we can advocate with Amtrak for better service.

And finally, thank you. We cannot do the work we do without your engagement. We are lucky to have active and growing All Aboard Ohio chapters at the local level in Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati. What can we do to get you and others more involved? Let us know and let’s get something done.

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