Friday, September 5, 2014
By Sean Barron
Whatever economic progress the Mahoning Valley continues to enjoy will receive a boost if high-speed rail transportation is more readily available, a nonprofit organization’s director contends.
“Youngstown and Erie [Pa.] are part of the missing link between the Midwest and the East Coast,” Brian Pitzer said during Thursday’s Eastgate Regional Council of Governments’ citizens advisory board meeting at Eastgate’s offices on East Federal Street.
Pitzer, executive director of All Aboard Erie, mentioned several possible routes for connecting a high-speed rail line between Erie and Pittsburgh, many of which would include Youngstown.
The 5-year-old All Aboard Erie’s main purpose is to promote passenger-rail transportation in that area. The organization also is partnering with All Aboard Ohio, a similar entity.
The closest Amtrak station is in Alliance, which has trains that stop around 1:40 and 3 a.m., Pitzer continued.
One possibility for the 110-mph train service is a direct link along Interstate 79, which also connects the two Pennsylvania cities. The more likely Erie-to-Pittsburgh route, however, would have stops in Ashtabula, Youngstown and New Castle, Pa., and could follow state Route 11, he said, adding that Warren also could be included.
“We need to find out, is that the most viable corridor?” he said.
Possible locations for train stations are next to the former Wean United building off Market Street, downtown, or adjacent to the former New York station near Wilson and Himrod avenues on the East Side.
All Aboard Erie is trying to raise $25,000 for a preliminary study to help determine which route would be the most practical while looking at potential pros and cons. After that, a feasibility study will be conducted, estimated to cost $100,000, Pitzer said.
The effort also is using as a template the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, which is planning a high-speed rail line to connect Columbus; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Chicago.
An increasing number of people are seeking and using alternative modes of transportation, so additional advantages of having high-speed rail service are that it’s more environmentally friendly and encourages further economic development. Also, having a hub in the Mahoning Valley probably would contribute to keeping more young people here, he contended.
Talk of having such service in the region dates to at least the 1970s, but it’s time for grass-roots efforts to make it a reality without waiting for federal assistance, Pitzer said.
“I think we have to go out and begin that process ourselves,” he added.
For more information, visit All Aboard Erie on Facebook, go to www.allaboardohio.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.