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Passenger Rail Supporters Tout Suburban Economic Development

Riverside is east of Dayton and on one of the eight stops along the 3C Corridor. Riverside also is home to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

All Aboard Ohio, a non-profit group that supports passenger rail, thinks suburbs along the corridor, like Riverside, could benefit economically from the plan. Ken Prendergast heads up the group.

"Some people discount tourism in the state, but it's a major portion of our economy in the state of Ohio," Prendergrast said.

Bob Murray is Riverside's development director. He said the city has been awarded $2.8 million for development as part of the 3C Corridor. Murray said the air force museum, which has 1.3 million visitors a year is in the perfect location. He said it sits directly across the street from where the train depot would be.

"What we hope to do with our development will be to capture those tourists to the Dayton area," Murray said.

Also nearby the Riverside stop is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Murray said two-thirds of its workers will be able to retire within the next five years. He thinks passenger rail could increase the base's employment opportunities.

"Creating a safe, reliable source of transportation between Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the employment pools and universities in Columbus and Cincinnati is vital to keep this economic driver in Ohio," he said.

Also hoping to get a boost in economic development from passenger trains is the city of Sharonville. It's located at the North Cincinnati stop. Tammy Riddle is the city's economic development specialist. She said the city wants to make Sharonville a destination for rail riders.

"We have the ice cream shops and the restaurants and the office uses and some of the other traveler amenities and business amenities that would support someone getting off the train," she said.

But Republican political consultant Terry Casey blows the whistle on their economic hopes. Casey said there are no studies to indicate there will be enough riders to significantly boost economic development. Meanwhile, rail critics say the trains' average speed is too slow at 39 miles per hour. Proponents say it will be closer to 44. Casey questions why people would choose to ride trains at that speed.

"Particularly when it's very easy for people from Columbus to hop in their car and be at the Air Force museum in about an hour and 20 minutes compared to the time it would take to drive from your home in Westerville or Dublin or Gahanna, get downtown get on a train. The time differences are dramatic," Casey said. Ohio received $400 million in federal stimulus funds for the 3C Corridor. The State Department of Transportation has asked the Controlling Board to release $25 million of that money to study the engineering, environmental and design process of the route.