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Valley left at the station in high-speed rail funding

Published: Fri, January 29, 2010 @ 12:06 a.m.

By David Skolnick

Youngstown likely will come on board in the next phase of funding, an official said.

YOUNGSTOWN — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown calls $400 billion in funding for passenger rail service for Ohio “probably the most important announcement” President Barack Obama has made.

And how much will the Mahoning Valley receive?

Nothing — at least for the next two to three years.

“Youngstown can certainly become part of the [next] plan, and we and the governor [Ted Strickland] are willing to work to make it happen,” Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, told The Vindicator on Thursday. “Because someone was not included today doesn’t mean they won’t be included in the future.”

The decision on where to locate the rail line was made by Ohio officials, he said.

It will take two to three years for the $400 million rail route that would link Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton to be running, Brown said.

While the Valley is not involved in this project, it will be a part of the next phase as a key connection between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Brown said.

That next phase, costing $2.5 billion nationwide, will begin as soon as the rail projects announced Thursday are finished, LaHood said. Congress already approved funding for that second phase.

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, chairman of the Ohio House Transportation Committee and a locomotive engineer, said he understands why the Valley won’t be part of the initial passenger rail project, and has been assured by state officials that the area will be part of the second phase.

“This is the beginning,” he said. “We’re doing the major metro areas first. We have to show that those rail lines will be successful in the state’s most-populated areas and then we can build on that.”

Obama announced funding for $8 billion in 13 passenger rail projects nationwide Thursday.

Hagan, D-60th, added: “While I am disappointed that we were not able to be included in the first phase of passenger rail development, I remain confident that we will have an opportunity in the near future.”



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