By MARC KOVAC
State transportation officials have formally asked lawmakers to release $25 million to conduct studies for establishing passenger rail services between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.
The Ohio Department of Transportation says the funds, part of $400 million in rail money awarded the state by the federal government, will be “used for design, engineering, construction and operation of 3C passenger rail service,” according to documents.
The item is included on the State Controlling Board agenda for April 19. At least one Republican on the panel must sign off on the funding in order for the study to move forward.
Senate President Bill Harris, a Republican from Ashland, said his caucus will be ready to make a decision by the board meeting.
Harris earlier sent a 16-page letter to the director of ODOT, seeking answers to questions about the rail project before Republicans offered their approval for the study.
Proponents of the rail plan believe the corridor is a necessary first step toward establishing eventual high-speed rail service throughout the state.
But critics question whether consumer demand will support rail service and how much state funding will be required to sustain and update it.
Gov. Ted Strickland continued to defend the project last week