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Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency seeks federal money to examine whether Cleveland to Chicago railways are off track

WASHINGTON, D. C. — A bipartisan group of legislators from Ohio, Illinois and Indiana is supporting a request from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) for a grant to study how to relieve passenger and freight congestion along the 341-mile rail corridor between Chicago and Cleveland.

A letter to the Federal Railroad Administration spearheaded by Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur says bottlenecks along the corridor create significant delays for passengers and goods, and “the time is right to conduct a comprehensive analysis of assets and resources to improve speed and safety for rail passengers and freight carriers and to enhance post-pandemic economic growth in the Great Lakes region.”

NOACA submitted its $2.56 million grant application on Monday, Kaptur’s office says.

The congressional letter says the rail corridor connects the people and economies of Cleveland, Elyria, Sandusky, Toledo, Bryan, Waterloo, Elkhart, South Bend, Gary, and Chicago, and that a comprehensive analysis of its assets and investment “represents a cost-effective approach to improving the nation’s rail network: upgrading existing rail corridors.”

“While the nation re-invests in its transportation network to reduce carbon emissions and improve the efficient and equitable movement of people and goods, this vital corridor is ripe for investment,” says the letter. “This study would identify appropriate investments to improve passenger and freight travel, which is far more efficient than building new corridors. Assistance from your agency would allow NOACA to improve rail speed and safety while advancing economic growth in the Great Lakes region.”

Joining Kaptur in signing the letter were both Ohio’s U.S. Senators, as well as Republican U.S. Representatives Dave Joyce of Bainbridge Township and Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River, and Democrats Shontel Brown of Warrensville Heights, Frank Mrvan of Indiana, and Illinois’ Bobby Rush, Danny Davis, Robin Kelly and Marie Newman.

Kaptur’s office said decisions on Federal Railroad Administration grants usually take four to six months. The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program supplying the grant is funded with nearly $362 million in the 2021 fiscal year, according to Kaptur’s office.

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