I recall it seems like just yesterday when I accepted an appointment to the All Aboard Ohio Board of Directors in 2012. It was an emotional time for me personally as I was still licking my wounds from a hard-fought battle in 2010 for Hardin County Commissioner. So, I was keenly aware of the feelings of frustration, disappointment, and even anger by AAO board members and our membership when the new Governor Kasich returned over $400 million to the FRA earmarked for passenger rail in Ohio. This was in spite of the fact that his predecessor, Governor Strickland had most everything in order to move forward with the 3C corridor. What many people including our board and membership didn’t realize with this action was the return of those funds also took Ohio off the FRA map for project consideration, as revealed in recent face-to-face conversations with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. Despite our best advocacy efforts people began to lose interest in this effort. AAO even lost members after this “loss.” We now have an opportunity in Ohio like never before. With Amtrak announcing its five-corridor initiative in Ohio, the 3C & D proposal, the majority of it on their dime thanks to the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, we could see a major boom for Ohio residents regardless of zip code, existing businesses, and proposed economic development projects. There are no requests for tax abatements which are usually covered in the long term by the taxpayer. There is no requirement for increased taxes. (Although Amtrak’s radar didn’t hit all of the corridors AAO has long advocated for, we remain committed to those as well. We have to start somewhere.) And, it could help our underserved fellow Ohioans. Those who are disabled, elderly, veterans, and families with chronically ill or disabled children all who are having trouble driving or who can’t afford the cost to own, insure, or maintain a vehicle. And, still, others are intimidated by driving in traffic, congestion, finding and affording to park once they get to the VA Hospital or children’s hospital and bigger cities around our state.
In a major way, the “Amtrak Connects US” plan for Ohio and the Great Lakes region means more frequent and timely trains for all of us who want or need the option of traveling by train, whether it’s on business or connecting with jobs, education, health care or just going to a ball game. As groups like the Columbus Partnership and the Ohio Chamber have recognized, expanded passenger rail is also good for Ohio’s economy and workforce development. Therefore, I would like to say to our AAO board, members, and social media followers what was said to me after my last political loss. “It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get up,” that matters. We need to be more vocal than ever before. Keep the calls and emails going to Governor DeWine, ORDC, the Majority and Minority leadership at the Ohio statehouse, and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. (You can refer to AAO talking points on our website if needed.) Together, we can get this done. All Aboard Ohio!!!