WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined why an investment in rail infrastructure will promote economic development and create jobs during a news conference call today. Brown joined Policy Matters Ohio in discussing a new report that outlines why increasing demand for component parts for rail infrastructure manufactured by Ohio companies will create jobs and promote economic development.
"Ohio plays a critical role in our nation's passenger rail system. That's because we can't have a national rail system without Ohio. Whether it's because of our manufacturers or our location, our state has an important role to play," Brown said. "But passenger rail is about more than another option for getting from Cincinnati to Columbus or Cleveland. Bringing rail back to Ohio means new opportunities for workers and businesses. The rail supply chain has room to grow in Ohio - using Ohio manufacturers and products. Our state can't afford to miss out on these jobs."
In January 2010, Ohio was awarded $400 million to connect Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton by passenger rail through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA). Ohio is a key bridge for a national high-speed rail system: the route would allow riders to access both the Chicago Hub and rail lines on the eastern seaboard. The new route will restart passenger rail service between the largest Ohio cities for the first time in more than 30 years. At least six million Ohioans live within 15 miles of the proposed 250 mile route, which represents one of the densest corridors in the United States without passenger rail service. A 2009 Amtrak study of the corridor projected ridership of nearly 500,000 within the first year - making it the 12th most traveled route in the country - and strong growth in the following years.
As Ohio expands its rail service, Ohio manufacturers have an opportunity to expand into this growing market. The Policy Matters Ohio report found that Ohio ranks fifth among the 50 states in number of passenger rail equipment producers or top-tier suppliers. The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC), looking at freight as well as passenger rail manufacturers and contractors, found 226 firms supporting employment of more than 26,000 in Ohio.
"Ohio has the right industrial base to produce for passenger and freight rail manufactured goods," said Wendy Patton, Senior Associate at Policy Matters. "A shift in priorities to public transit would create manufacturing jobs in factories across the state."
Policy Matters Ohio's new report, All Aboard: Clean Energy Transportation Opportunities Favor Ohio Economy, shows the economic impact of rail and other mass transit infrastructure to Ohio manufacturing. The report includes a list of Ohio companies, by county, that participate in the rail supply chain and that may benefit from new domestic demand. A burst of demand for passenger cars and components due to projects like the 3-C corridor will provide new market opportunity across the spectrum of these firms. Of the firms surveyed by ORDC that now only serve freight rail, three quarters indicated an interest in moving into passenger rail markets. Nearly two thirds of these firms are headquartered in Ohio, positioning the state to benefit from increased demand in the rail sector.
Brown has been an outspoken advocate for passenger rail service in Ohio, having worked with both Republican and Democratic members of Ohio's congressional delegation, federal officials, and local stakeholders. He has secured federal funds to perform feasibility studies of passenger rail routes in the state. In April 2009, Brown sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urging him to devote federal stimulus funds to passenger rail service in Ohio.