Jake Mecklenborg has written an excellent piece for UrbanCincy that explains the various proposals for the Eastern Corridor commuter rail project, and proposes an alternate plan that would cost far less to operate and serve far more customers than the plan currently proposed. To summarize, the main problems with the Eastern Corridor project as planned are as follows:
- The project serves as a front for turning U.S. Route 32 into an eight-lane freeway through an environmentally-sensitive area of the Little Miami River flood plain.
- The proposed Oasis Line alignment travels through an area that is sparsely-populated compared to other available routes, with station locations that poorly serve the community.
- Using Diesel Multiple-Unit (DMU) trains on shared freight tracks will require two crew members per train, doubling labor costs compared to light rail or rapid transit trains on dedicated tracks.
- As planned, costs of the Eastern Corridor project will be largely borne by Hamilton County taxpayers, but will primarily benefit developers in Cleremont County.
- The planned Milford terminal isn’t actually in Milford’s historic downtown, but two miles away on Milford Parkway.
- The Eastern Corridor project, despite being years away from construction, would directly compete with the shovel-ready Cincinnati Streetcar project for federal TIGER II funds.
As Scott Holzman notes in the comments: “If UrbanCincy/Randy Simes, John Schneider, and Roxanne Qualls all don’t like a Cincinnati rail plan, you know that it is bad news.”
Mecklenborg proposes light rail service on the Wasson Line that would provide commuter service to Milford while also providing convenient service to Xavier University, Hyde Park, and the Rookwood Commons area. The Wasson Road alignment also provides a potential connection to a future phase of the streetcar, with access to the University of Cincinnati and the medical district. The article is a must-read for anybody with an interest in local transit issues.
The Metro Cincinnati project proposes rapid transit service on both the Oasis Line as well as the Wasson Line, but in an era when funding is scarce and projects must be prioritized, the Wasson alignment is the clear winner.