Derrick James, Amtrak senior manager for government affairs, talks with a town hall attendee about opportunities for Amtrak service in Crestline. Amtrak hasn't serviced Crestline since 1990 but is considering studies with federal funding.
CRESTLINE — More than 100 residents of Crestline and surrounding communities gathered Wednesday for a town hall discussing Amtrak’s potential in Crawford County.
With $66 billion in federal funding announced to expand and rebuild rail lines across the nation, Gov. Mike DeWine directed the Ohio Rail Development Commission to apply for the first phase of funding to study expanding service in Ohio.
If the application is accepted, the Federal Railroad Administration will provide $500,000 per corridor to fund a consultant for a service development plan.
Derrick James, Amtrak senior manager for government affairs, said the company will consider adding Crestline as a stop on the Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati and Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit corridors.
More than 100 people attended a town hall at the Hub at Village Square to voice their support for an Amtrak facility servicing Crawford County, including elected officials from Shelby and Ontario.
A sign to be hung in Crestline on a bridge at the intersection of Seltzer and Main St.
Miranda Jones, executive director of the Crestline-Galion Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleasantly surprised at the turnout Wednesday afternoon.
“To know that at some point in time in my children’s future, we could go on a family vacation and hop on a train five minutes from the house to get to Cleveland and then go to Chicago is really exciting,” Jones said.
Crestline Mayor Linda Horning-Pitt said many local and surrounding residents were excited about the prospect of Amtrak train stops returning to Crestline for the first time in more than 30 years.
“We all rode the train before Amtrak came and we rode the train when Amtrak was here,” Horning-Pitt said. “And the other mayors know it’s going to affect the whole area — Ontario, Lexington, Shelby, Bucyrus — they’re all excited about this opportunity.”
Horning-Pitt invited people to sign a letter to DeWine’s office supporting a local Amtrak facility. Residents of any county can print out the letter and share it with the Galion-Crestline Chamber of Commerce.
The Crestline Public Library also has copies of the letter for residents. The library will collect signed letters for the Chamber.
Horning-Pitt said many people are excited about the prospect, but residents have to ensure they stay motivated.
“Every three months or so, we need to have another gathering and another letter-signing and target our state representatives to keep the momentum going,” she said. “It’s going to be a minimum of five years before this gets up.”
James said he has seen government agencies and travelers change the way they view passenger trains. He pointed out train commute time is more productive than hours spent in a car or plane for riders.
If Crestline gains an Amtrak stop, James said it would likely have one or two platforms and he isn’t sure yet if there would be a shelter or staff with baggage service.
“It’s too early in the process to determine those details,” he said. “Stations come in all shapes and sizes and we have guidelines based on expected ridership.”
James said Amtrak uses existing railroads in partnership with freight companies and state rail development commissions. Passenger trains are usually five to seven cars long, so James said they wouldn’t disrupt commuter traffic too much.