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NOPRA Chair Tom Galloway spoke at the 2024 Democracy Day Event in Toledo. Read his speech below.

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to again address the Toledo Democracy Day gathering on a subject dear to my heart…Trains. I wish to speak today about the very real possibility of Improved and Expanded Passenger Rail service in Toledo and Northwest Ohio. My name is Tom Galloway, and I am Chairman of the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association… I am also the Political advisor for BLET-OSLB.

Toledo has a hidden gem, and under-used treasure, standing less than two miles from where we stand; Toledo Union Station. It opened to great fanfare in September of 1950 and was a hub of activity for years and at its peak, hosted up to 110 trains a day to most any place in the US. Today the Station hosts not only AMTRAK but also Greyhound.  Even though Toledo only has 4 trains a day, it is the busiest AMTRAK station in Ohio.

A little history

In 1969, the time I began my railroad career, Penn Central ran three passenger trains a day each way between Chicago and the east coast through Toledo, and the B&O and C&O each ran a North-South set every day from Detroit to Columbus and Dayton.  There were also Penn Central Passenger trains across Ohio on the former PRR from Chicago to the East coast via Ft. Wayne-Lima-Pittsburgh… Then came AMTRAK.

Suddenly, Toledo went from 10 trains a day to no service whatsoever. The nearest Passenger rail service to Toledo was either Lima, to ride the Broadway Ltd. on the former PRR Line, or Detroit/Ann Arbor for service to Chicago. Eventually, service was returned on the Lake Shore Ltd. (48&49) from Chicago to the east coast. For a short time, there was service between Toledo and Chicago via Detroit on the ‘Lake Cities’, but due to the running time with permanent speed restrictions thru Monroe, that section was discontinued. Eventually, the Broadway Ltd. via Ft. Wayne was discontinued. It was replaced by a reconfigured Capitol Ltd. Chicago-Lima-Pittsburgh-Washington DC., A Three Rivers service was established Chicago-Pittsburgh via the CSX through Fostoria. It was a daylight run and eventually was rerouted through Toledo to Cleveland and Pittsburgh before being discontinued. For a short time, Toledo again had three East-West trains a day, each way! 

Toledo had service, but Columbus and Dayton did not. This was a travesty for a state that had at one time had a vibrant Passenger Rail Network. Even now though it is the ‘busiest AMTRAK line in Ohio’, it is still limited service.

 In the early part of this century, plans were starting to be developed for Amtrak hubs, nationwide. There was, in these early stages, a Midwest Hub and yes, even an ‘OHIO hub’. Then Governor Ted Strickland, seized on this Ohio Hub Plan and pushed for the ‘3 C & D’ Corridor, but we all know how that story ended. It was during this time that I became actively involved in Passenger Rail advocacy.

As part of my ‘new position’ as an advisor to the BLET Board, I was asked to attend a Passenger Rail forum sponsored by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) Passenger Rail Committee and Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association (NOPRA) that was a luncheon at the Toledo Club.

Who I met with,

After the presentation was over, I spoke to some of the TMACOG people. One in particular was the late Diane Reamer-Evans, a Transportation Planner for TMACOG (the Metropolitan Planning Organization {MPO}) for the region).  She was in charge of the Passenger Rail Committee and the Public Transit Committee. Diane asked me if I would be interested in joining the Passenger Rail Committee as my predecessor had moved to Columbus and was no longer attending the meetings I could join as a representative of the BLET Ohio State Legislative Board. That was the first step of many that led to who I am today. I served as Vice-Chairman of that committee.

After I joined the committee, I was introduced, and invited to join the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association (NOPRA), the other group that presented the forum.  NOPRA has a few more freedoms within the community to do their advocacy work. Again, as a representative of the BLET-OSLB, I joined. I now serve as NOPRA Chairman.

NOPRA developed a set of goals, or endeavors, to take around to local stakeholders in Passenger Rail/Public Transit type projects in the region. We had several meetings with our counterpart organizations in the region, most notably the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) and Michigan Association of Rail Passengers (MARP) on projects of mutual benefit, NIPRA was, and still is as far as I know, involved in an endeavor to bring High Speed (or Higher speed) Passenger rail service from Chicago to Columbus thru Ft. Wayne and Lima.  They have raised funds from businesses and organizations in Indiana for the various environmental and economic impact studies.  Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Committee, (MORPC), an MPO out of the Columbus area has raised funds as well.

There is a group in Michigan, affiliated with MARP for a plan to reestablish Passenger rail service from Ann Arbor to Travers City and Petoskey, Michigan. Unfortunately, Toledo was too late to the table to get in on this… however… in 2018, Dr. Alexander Metcalf of Transportation Economics & Management Systems, Inc. spoke at the Passenger Rail Forum in Toledo about this project.  Dr. Metcalf had been involved in the planning stages of the mid-west hub AND the Ohio Hub plans that would have been implemented had not the money been turned down by Ohio in 2011.  At this forum, a then Toledo City councilman asked Dr. Metcalf why there wasn’t a link from Toledo to the Detroit area… That started a conversation that is ongoing today. One study had been completed, but then COVID-19 hit before subsequent studies could be funded and undertaken. In the meantime, interest in Toledo to Columbus has come up, and the Toledo City Council is looking to commission that study as well, dusting off the earlier Ohio Hub study.

Who WE met with

Also, at about this time, the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association began to roll out a plan for what was to be called the Lake Shore Corridor Initiative, a plan to increase passenger train traffic between Chicago thru Toledo to the east coast to 4-5 trains a day each way from the current schedule of just the Lake Shore Ltd.

Whose support do we need?

While we have more support from Washington, DC than we have had previously under the Jobs and Infrastructure Act. The funding for passenger rail development is at a historic level of $66.3 Billion over the next five years.

Ohio has been awarded three Federal Railroad Administration grants for the study of three routes:

  • Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit

  • Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati and...

  • Chicago-Ft. Wayne-Lima-Columbus-Pittsburgh

More, however, needs to be done at MUST be done at the local, State and Federal levels.

Speak with your local state legislators, as they will be asked to approve state funds to match future federal grants for the three routes I mentioned.  A better-connected Ohio can significantly and positively impact both Ohio’s mobility and economy.

I, personally, have discussed state and national passenger rail improvement/expansion with representatives from the Toledo and Northwest Ohio area representatives, as well as Representative Marcy Kaptur and Senator Sherrod Brown. That being said, they need to hear from YOU. Join with various local and state advocacy groups such as NOPRA, All Aboard Ohio or Disability and Aging Rail Coalition (DARC). Let your voice be heard!

The key to expanding Passenger Rail, here and elsewhere is to get more corridors identified by the FRA …and under the FRA’s Long Distance Study Project, two major long-distance routes have been suggested that could impact Ohio, including a Detroit-New Orleans Corridor via Toledo, among others…

Let’s not let this opportunity slip away… It’s up to us as citizens and you as our elected leaders.

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