Thursday, July 26, 2007

All Aboard Ohio: U.S. Appropriations Bill Funds West Shore Corridor Study

All Aboard Ohio

Ken Prendergast
Director, Research & Communications

July 25, 2007

U.S. appropriations bill funds West Shore Corridor study
Only Ohio rail/transit project to receive federal planning funds

Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Betty Sutton (D-13), the West Shore Corridor has become a bonafide transportation project in the eyes of federal, state and regional transportation planning agencies. Rep. Sutton successfully secured $350,000 for a West Shore Corridor rail/bus transit alternatives analysis as part of the House of Representatives' Fiscal Year 2008 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. The project’s sponsor, and thus the recipient of funds, is the Lorain County Board of Commissioners.

More funding for the alternatives analysis will be sought. The funding will allow a consultant to be hired to seek public input to develop a range of proposed rail and bus transit options, then determine potential ridership and revenues, capital and operating costs, station-area land uses, train horn Quiet Zones, safety enhancements and other impacts of those options. Local public officials would then be in a position to select a preferred option and pursue funding for implementation.

Ultimately, West Shore commuter rail/enhanced bus services could connect neighborhoods and employment districts in Cleveland, Lakewood, Rocky River, Westlake, Bay Village, Avon, Avon Lake, Sheffield Village, Sheffield Lake, Lorain and Vermilion. West Shore Corridor rail/bus services would provide a leading, close-to-home for other key transportation corridors in Northeast Ohio. It might also pay economic dividends in addressing serious, transportation-based problems in Northeast Ohio by:

§ Reducing Greater Cleveland’s transportation costs (fifth-highest in the nation – ULI, 2003; CNT, 2004), which cause working-class households to devote more of their budgets to transportation than housing, limiting their ability to build wealth;

§ Increasing access to jobs, education and health care that have sprawled beyond the traditional service areas of local transit systems (only 8-15 percent of available jobs in the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain area are within a 40-minute transit ride – Census, 2000);

§ Encouraging compact development patterns in a pedestrian-friendly setting at transit stations (“Commuter rail might also focus land development around stations, slowing urban sprawl and would provide an example of inter-regional cooperation.” – Parsons Brinckerhoff, NEORail Feasibility Study, 2001);

§ Reducing vehicular emissions that cause Greater Cleveland to fall into EPA air quality non-attainment, compromising human and economic health. Ironically, Honda refused to consider non-attainment areas for its newest U.S. assembly plant. In Cuyahoga County, mobile sources (ie: vehicles) accounted for 86-95% of ozone precursors, or 16-36 percentage points higher than the typical U.S. urban area (USEPA & EDF, 1996);

§ Provide a fast, more reliable option to driving in and out of downtown Cleveland which will only become more stressful as several major road projects (Inner Belt, West Shoreway, Clifton) get underway within the next several years.

Since July 2006, citizens, business people, city and county officials, state and federal legislators, transportation and planning agency representatives, plus many others have been working together via a series of stakeholders meetings to determine whether there is a public interest in advancing planning for enhanced West Shore Corridor transit.
The next stakeholders meeting will be from 9-11 a.m. Aug. 29, in the Gallery Room at the Avon Lake Public Library, 32649 Electric Blvd.

Stakeholders responded positively to the House of Representatives’ vote.

“Thanks to Congresswoman Sutton and an outpouring of local support, developing West Shore Corridor rail and bus transit has grown from a good idea to a real project,” said Ken Prendergast, director of research and communication at All Aboard Ohio. “That support is why the West Shore Corridor was the only Ohio rail or transit project approved by Congress to receive federal planning funds.”

“Special thanks to first-term Congresswoman, Betty Sutton, who has seen the value of this project to our West Shore and Northeast Ohio areas and gone to bat for our collective communities,” said Lorain County Commissioner Betty Blair.

“I think that this shows great commitment from federal leaders for commuter rail and great cooperation on the municipal, county and federal level,” said Kevin Kelley, chair of Cleveland City Council’s Aviation and Transportation Committee. “Transit has been embraced by communities around the nation and this community should study transit development as an economic development tool. I am absolutely thrilled about this important first step. This is a nice solid gain.”

“We’re excited about the possibility of commuter rail and this is another step in that direction,” Lakewood Mayor Tom George said. “Commuter rail is an excellent fit for Lakewood, the western communities and the region. At this time of high energy prices, alternative forms of transportation are on the cutting edge of our community discussions."

“I think this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the importance of alternative transportation throughout this western region and it demonstrates that the cooperation between counties and statekholders can affect the distribution of federal funds for needy projects such as this,” said Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough. “And I hope this is just a beginning step toward ultimate completion of a commuter rail system for the region.”

Although $1.5 million in FY2008 federal funds was sought for the alternatives analysis, the funding appropriated was in line with awards to similar transportation projects around the country. The West Shore Corridor was one of 25 projects nationwide identified by the House of Representatives to receive a total of $9.8 million in U.S. Department of Transportation Alternatives Analysis Program funds. The House also increased the funding ceiling for the Alternative Analysis program from $18 million to $25 million, of which roughly $3.3 million remains uncommitted. West Shore stakeholders will seek additional funds in the coming months from a variety of sources to expand the scope of planning elements.


All Aboard Ohio! is a statewide nonprofit organization based in Columbus that advocates for improved public transit and passenger train services in Ohio. More information can be found at The Stocker Foundation in Lorain is a generous supporter of All Aboard Ohio’s West Shore Corridor educational efforts.