WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Ohio manufacturers and workers who produce component parts for passenger rail cars and infrastructure at Dayton-Phoenix Group, Inc. plant today in Dayton. Brown was joined by workers and Ohio manufacturers to outline why investment in rail means jobs for Ohioans. Policy Matters Ohio also unveiled a new report today showing the economic impact of rail and other mass transit infrastructure to Ohio.
"Investments in passenger rail provide an opportunity for Ohio's strong manufacturing legacy to reinvent itself. Connecting Ohio's largest cites through rail will create immediate jobs and set our state on a path towards long-term economic growth," Brown said. "Rail is good for business and good for our cities. For too long, our government passed tax cuts for the rich and giveaways to special interests. An investment in rail infrastructure is an investment in Main Street."
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, 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."
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: even for those that now serve only freight rail, three quarters indicated to ORDC an interest in moving into passenger rail markets. As almost two thirds of these firms are headquartered in Ohio, the state is well positioned 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.