First Eastern Corridor open house raises additional questions about plan

First proposed in the late 1990’s, the multi-modal Eastern Corridor plan concluded its Tier 1 planning in 2006. After four years of inaction, planning for commuter rail on the Oasis line resumed in May 2010. Tier 2 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and preliminary engineering is currently underway and preferred alternatives will be determined in 2012.

As the plan moves forward, project leaders are holding three community open houses this week to provide an opportunity for the public to learn more about the project and offer feedback at the midpoint of this planning phase. But because there will not be any official decisions concerning track alignment, vehicle type, etc., until 2012, those who attended the April 5 open house at the Leblond Recreation Center on Riverside Drive were frustrated by the inability of planners to answer specific questions.

The primary concern of open house attendees was the proposed use of diesel locomotives. Area residents are familiar with the sound of the line’s periodic freight trains and the Cincinnati Dinner Train, and fear that frequent high-speed diesel commuter train service will significantly impact their neighborhoods. Most expressed that they would be more welcoming to the proposed commuter service if it took the form of electric light rail or modern streetcar technology similar to that of the proposed Cincinnati Streetcar.

Several concerned citizens, including Arn Bortz, Managing Partner of Towne Properties, observed that the Oasis Commuter Rail is designed to serve far eastern Hamilton County and Clermont County to the detriment of those who live in Cincinnati. Thayne Maynard, President of the Cincinnati Zoo, said that he moved to Newtown to be close to the Loveland Bike Trail, and is worried that the Oasis commuter rail might scuttle plans for the Ohio River Trail between Downtown and Lunken Airport.

Planners assured those in attendance that “No Build” is a possible outcome of the Tier 2 work, in which case all of these concerns can be forgotten. But the completion of Tier 2 work will not determine how capital funds are acquired or which local entity will operate the line. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is the most likely operator. With the vast majority of SORTA’s funding coming from a .3% Cincinnati earnings tax, it appears that a special source of revenue will be needed for the Oasis Line as it is expected to terminate near I-275 in Clermont County.

Further complicating the issue, UrbanCincy investigated the Eastern Corridor plan in August 2010 and discovered several significant flaws that have yet to be addressed by project planners.

Two more open houses are scheduled to be held. The first will take place on Wednesday, April 6 at the R.G. Cribbet Recreation Center (map), and the second on Thursday, April 7 inside the Milford High School cafeteria (map). Both open houses will take place from 5pm to 8pm, and will include an open comment/Q&A session beginning at 7pm.

Eastern Corridor Open House photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

  • Dave Powell

    I was happy to hear the Eastern corridor project is moving forward again. I was afraid it was lost. I live in Mt Washington. Not far to the bus line. While I don’t have the oportunity to ride the Metro to work. The Commuter line would open up more for me in the CBD. and I would ride it on the weekend if scheduling permits it. In fact many of my co-worker are supportive of this rail line where they are against the trolley.
    I understand the reasoning behind the diesel cars if the line is to be mixed somewhat with Norfolk Southern Freight traffic considering pantograph height, but I agree that Electric traction would be a better way to go if posible. I disagree about the diesel sound of the new cars. I beleive they’re only about as noisy as a city bus. In my opinion, the folks who live along the rail lines moved into their homes knowing there was rail traffic and should deal with it accordingly or move.

  • DP

    It doesn’t address the diesel engine noise, but folks who live nearby should start talking to the project sponsors about ensuring that sufficient improvements are made to at-grade crossings to allow the line to qualify for a Quiet Zone from FRA so that train horns aren’t required to blow at ever grade crossing.

    One question for folks who have been following the project (can’t make the meetings this week to ask myself): what kind of operating headways are they talking about?

  • I think a rail connection to Cincinnati’s eastern suburbs makes a ton of sense, but I do not think the Oasis Line is the route. I would much rather see the eastern connection be made along the Wasson Line which runs through heavily populated residential and commercial areas, and would have significantly higher ridership. I also think that it should be built as electric light rail, not diesel commuter rail.

  • DAVE POWELL

    The enginesounds of the new light transit vechicles are not loud. They are not at all like the high horsepowered main line diesel electric locomotives. More like a Metro bus. The folks who live alomg the line may notice it a first, but won’t pay notice after a while. I have lived near two active CSX lines in the past. Ask somebody who has lived along the Long Island Railroad.
    To eliminate the horn at grade crossings is a deadly idea. Paticularly with commuter trains of any sort. BTW, the horns aren’t as loud as a main line diesel either.
    I like the both Oasis and Wasson lines myself. Would’nt The Wasson line would serve Xavier University and Rookwood Commons? Either way, the line needs to terminate in the Second Street tunnel to serve the CBD best.

  • Any idea who the planners are on the project? The only organizations by name that I can find is ODOT.