WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that Ohio has been awarded $400 million to connect Ohio’s largest cities by passenger rail. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will provide Recovery Act funds to begin work on passenger rail lines connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton.  Expanding passenger rail service in Ohio could ultimately create more than 16,000 permanent jobs (in addition to tens of thousands of construction jobs), generate more than $3 billion in development near stations, and create an annual $80 million windfall for the state’s tourism industry.

“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.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a member of President Obama’s cabinet, will join Sen. Brown for a news conference call at 2:45 P.M. on Thursday to further outline how the funds will be used.

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.

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. 

During the months that followed, Sen. Brown met with freight rail CEOs, members of the Obama administration, elected Ohio officials, and local business leaders to build consensus on the funding application.  Close coordination with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Rail Development Commission helped build a strong case for the geographic utility and economic benefits of high-speed rail.  In Sep. 2009, Brown wrote FRA Administrator Joe Szabo on the merits of the project.  In October, Sen. Brown led a bipartisan group of 14 members of the Ohio Delegation in sending a letter to the Department of Transportation, urging that Ohio be strongly considered for the award.  Three weeks ago, Sen. Brown was joined by Gov. Ted Strickland in a letter to Sec. LaHood supporting Ohio’s growth potential for high-speed rail access.