It seems every city is busy drawing up wish lists of infrastructure projects for President Obama’s economic stimulus plan. Apparently COTA has drawn up a plan to revive the North Corridor light rail line. Also included on the list is money to complete the Alum Creek bike path, replace the Town Street bridge, convert Front Street to two-way traffic, add a greenway along the Scioto, and various road and sidewalk projects.
Columbus seeks $334M from Obama plan for light rail, other projects
Regional line would run from Downtown to Worthington
Thursday, January 8, 2009 4:09 PM
By Robert VitaleColumbus has revived plans for a regional light-rail system as part of its request for $334.5 million from President-elect Obama’s economic-stimulus plan.
The city’s wish list has many hurdles ahead — Obama’s plan needs congressional approval, first of all — but Mayor Michael B. Coleman said light rail fits in with the incoming president’s priorities of economic development, alternative transportation and reduced energy consumption.
Although Coleman pitched a Downtown streetcar line last year as the first step toward a bigger light-rail system, the new plan written by the Central Ohio Transit Authority “is the larger plan,” he said.
“It’s the best of streetcars and light rail,” Coleman said.
The trains would run from Downtown to the Delaware County line, following the streetcar plan’s High Street route before veering over to existing railroad tracks to the east. The route would pass through the Short North, University District, Clintonville and Worthington.
I’m anxiously looking forward to more details about this proposal. I’m a little confused because I thought the stimulus was looking for “shovel-ready” projects and I’m pretty sure neither the light rail line nor the streetcar proposal have been through the final design phase. Also, I’m sure that $200 million won’t cover even half of the project’s cost. So I’m not sure where the rest of the money will come from yet.
Lastly, I’m concerned about mixing elements of streetcars with light rail. I think both are important to the city and region, and they would be great complementary services, but I’m not sure one line can serve as both. These two forms of rail serve different purposes. Streetcars serve very short, local trips. Light rail is intended to move people around the region. Many light rail lines operate at street-level in downtowns, but for short distances. If you run at street-level for three miles from downtown to campus with stops every two blocks (like a streetcar), you risk creating a service so slow that people towards the end of the line won’t ride it all the way to downtown.
Let’s not jump the gun though. Like I said, I’m interested to see more details. This is exciting and could be a great thing. Keep your fingers crossed for better transit in Columbus.