ORDC Chair Leaves but Stays
Commissioners Approve Major Projects
(Columbus) – Calling it “a wonderful opportunity” that leaves her feeling “truly humbled”; Jolene Molitoris formally gaveled her last meeting as Ohio Rail Development Commission Chairwoman to begin serving in her newly appointed position as Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. Thought officially stepping down as Chairwoman, her departure won’t last long as the ODOT Director holds a seat as a Commission member.
Saying she considers herself “fortunate to have such fine colleagues and friends”, Molitoris was applauded several times during the meeting by fellow Commissioners and guests, including a standing ovation at the end of the meeting. She concluded the meeting by nominating long-time Commissioner Thomas McOwen as Vice-Chairman to oversee the Commission until Governor Ted Strickland appoints a new Chair. McOwen’s nomination was approved unanimously by voice vote.
Molitoris begins her duties as ODOT Director upon the retirement of James Beasley, whom she praised as bringing a fresh, innovative approach to the agency and taking a more multi-modal approach to transportation development. A resolution commending Beasley for his service was unanimously approved and applauded.
Several major projects were also approved by Commissioners:
CSX North Baltimore Safety Initiatives
- $5-million dollars for numerous grade crossings, crossing closure and other crossing safety projects in the Wood County communities surrounding the CSX North Baltimore Intermodal Facility as part of CSX’s “National gateway” project. ORDC will also provide financial support for track & signal improvements within the Intermodal Facility, while CSX will underwrite the full cost of a grade separation that will eliminate a crossing and increase safety for local motorists.
Norfolk Southern Portsmouth Car Repair Shop Project
- ORDC will act as the public sponsor for a U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant to facilitate the rehabilitation of a major railroad car repair shop for the Norfolk Southern railroad in the Portsmouth, Ohio rail yard. The project will allow the rehiring of 9 furloughed workers, create 77 new railroad jobs and overhaul 1,200 rail cars per year. The new jobs will have a starting rate of $16-per hour plus average hourly benefits of $12.74. It will also allow Norfolk Southern to retain 247 existing jobs in the Portsmouth area.
Diesel Emissions Reduction Grants
· Administer over $4.9-million dollars in federal matching grants under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant (DERG) program, a joint effort with ODOT, the Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Development. The federal funds, from the Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) program, will be aimed at reducing so-called point-source diesel emissions in rail yards, where locomotives would otherwise run on idle when not in use. The following Ohio-based railroads will receive grants: Wheeling & Lake Erie, Cleveland Works Railroad, Indiana & Ohio Railroad and the RJ Corman Lines.
Also approved were additional funds for
- Grade crossing safety improvements along the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad “Akron Sub” rail line between Medina and Akron.
- Additional funds to cover the total reconstruction of a previously unused track to serve the Case Farms feed mill operation and a local aggregate stone company.
Commissioners were also briefed on a $45,000 contract with Amtrak to begin a study of the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati (3-C) Corridor for possible start-up passenger rail operation. The study was requested in February 2008 by Governor Strickland in a letter to (then) Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant. Results of the study will help determine the optimal route and station stops for daily passenger service.
Commissioners also approved a resolution of thanks to Ohio’s U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown for his support for a $500,000 allocation for the environmental and project development work for the Ohio Hub high-performance passenger rail plan.
(The Ohio Rail Development Commission is an independent agency operating within the Ohio Department of Transportation. ORDC is responsible for economic development through the improvement and expansion of passenger and freight rail services and railroad grade crossing safety. For more information about what ORDC does for Ohio, visit our website at http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/)