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Published: Friday, 8/14/2009

Wilkowski: Make Toledo a high-speed railroad hub

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Democratic mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski said yesterday he wants to make Toledo a hub in the nation's new high-speed passenger rail system.

"Toledo is ideally positioned to benefit from new federal investment in passenger rail service," Mr. Wilkowski said in front of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.

The mayoral hopeful said he would seek to forge a "Midwest Mayors' Compact" on high-speed rail with Cleveland, Columbus, Chicago, South Bend, Ind., Detroit, and Ann Arbor.

He also urged the Toledo City Plan Commission to establish a Transit Oriented Development District around the Toledo train station downtown in anticipation of and as a catalyst to the development of high-speed passenger train service.

"Toledo will share in a major portion of the 7,100 construction jobs that will be created from this $3.5 billion project," Mr. Wilkowski said. "Toledo will see, if we do things right, the creation of between 450 and 620 permanent new jobs."

State Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), who joined Mr. Wilkowski yesterday, said there is sufficient momentum building for high-speed passenger train development since the federal government has appropriated $8 billion in stimulus funds to be allocated to federally designated high-speed rail corridors.

"For the first time, we have a President in the White House and a governor in Columbus who are talking about investing in this," Mr. Ujvagi said.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and six other Midwestern governors met on July 29 to present a united front in seeking billions in federal funds to develop a regional high-speed passenger rail network with Chicago as its hub.

The governors signed a memorandum of understanding in which they agreed to support each other's applications before the Federal Rail Commission for individual projects that eventually could be meshed into a single network. The agreement also creates a multistate steering group to coordinate the efforts.

The conventional 79-mph trains would run on upgraded existing freight lines with the long-term goal of eventually converting to new high-speed rail traveling up to 110 miles per hour.

The total Chicago hub is estimated at $3.5 billion, nearly half of the $8 billion set aside nationwide for passenger rail. Forty states and Washington submitted 278 preliminary applications totaling $102 billion. Ohio submitted a preliminary application seeking $250 million to $400 million.



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