February 3, 2022

CFA Envisions a $22 Million Amtrak Station at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

No one knows yet when Amtrak passenger rail service will come to Columbus, the second largest city in America without such service. But when it does, the CFA is prepared to answer a key question: Where could passengers board the trains for departures and arrivals?


A feasibility study commissioned last year by the CFA concludes that a new train station could be integrated into the Convention Center, with pedestrian access from N. High Street. It’s a fitting spot, for reasons both practical and historical: The Convention Center sits on the site of the former Union Station, Columbus’ grand terminal in the heyday of train travel. That means a new station not only would echo its predecessor, but also would benefit from the existing rail lines that still run beneath the building.


LMN Architects, hired by the CFA in July to conduct the study with HNTB Engineering, considered other sites close to the Convention Center but settled on a spot that currently includes the Starbucks shop.


As envisioned by the report presented to the CFA Development Committee on Jan. 4, a glass-fronted lobby would face north from the Convention Center’s southern section. The current gap between the north and south sections — where the tracks run below street level — would be covered with a cap, forming a continuous plaza between the two sections and extending to High Street.


Passengers would move from street level to the rail platform by stair, escalator, or elevator for passenger train departures and arrivals.


The CFA commissioned the study in the wake of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that included $66 billion for Amtrak expansion. The quasi-public corporation’s list of potential new routes includes the 3C+D Corridor, with three daily round trips connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. In December, Amtrak released its vision for what the Ohio 3C+D Corridor might look like.


That vision gives CFA Executive Director Don Brown extra optimism. “Amtrak’s vision statement goes a long way toward getting our 3C+D Corridor to the top of the 35 new routes Amtrak identified in its 15-year development plan,” Brown told the Development Committee. Amtrak would pay to build and operate the station, estimated to cost $22 million; make needed upgrades to the existing rail lines, switches and signal systems; and pay for the first five years of maintenance and upkeep.


Securing passenger rail service for Columbus requires several pieces to fall into place. If they do fall into place, train service could begin in three to five years.


Brown said the return of passenger rail service to the heart of downtown would boost economic development, making Columbus more attractive to relocating companies, visitors and tourists.


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