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Residents Oppose Rail Line Extension Near Dayton Airport

A map provided by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission shows the rail spur crossing I-75 to the airport.
Lewis Wallace
/
WYSO
A map provided by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission shows the rail spur crossing I-75 to the airport.

Residents of Butler Township and Vandalia are working to block a rail line extension near the Dayton Airport.

The multi-million dollar project, which has been in the works for several years under the leadership of the Montgomery County Transportation Improvement District (TID), would connect a main CSX train line to the area around a new Procter and Gamble distribution facility. Project planners say it would encourage even more development in logistics and transportation around the airport.

At this point the project is likely to take place in several stages, and the first stage would revive a short abandoned rail spur stretching from Cassel Road west along Old Springfield Road to I-75. Future stages would complete a rail link to the Northwoods Business Park, according to the Montgomery County TID and Ohio Department of Transportation.

But some residents don’t want to see more activity in what is now a semi-rural area.

“If it’s gonna be used for private businesses, let the private businesses pay for it and not all the taxpayers,” said Vandalia resident Susan Moloney. The train line would run through the backyard of her home of 30 years. She’s joined with local leader Tom Zeigler of Vandalia, who’s organizing to raise awareness about the train line as well as the annexation of parts of Butler Township by the city of Union to build the Procter & Gamble facility.

“All there is around this area is agriculture and homes,” said Zeigler. “Anybody who’s lived here moves out to the township to be out of the city, to have a few acres of land and live a rural lifestyle.”

Zeigler says now that the P&G facility is under construction, bright lights shine into his home day and night. “It lights up the sky like Vegas.”

Zeigler, Moloney and several other opponents of the rail line attended a public comment session Wednesday for the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) to get feedback on its overall Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) for the region for fiscal years 2016-2019. MVRPC helps to receive and assemble public and state feedback on transportation plans for the region, although in the case of this particular project the commission doesn’t control the funds or directly make funding requests.

At this point the first part of the rail spur, stretching two miles from the current CSX track is in the engineering and environmental study stages, but has yet to be funded for construction. That money would likely come through a combination of state and federal aid, and the estimated total project cost listed in the TIP is nearly $20 million, although Steve Stanley with the Montgomery County TID says construction on the first phase is likely to cost just around $2 million.

 

A public comment period for Phase I closed a few days ago, and Stanley says he will compile and respond to all comments probably within the next 30 days.

 

“The intent of the comment process is to receive feedback on the technical aspects of the project," he said, suggesting that for those who don't want the project to happen at all, it's unlikely to change course through the public comment process. But Stanley defended the rail line, saying “I respect those opinions, I disagree with many of them...I believe there is a very good economic reason to look at providing increased rail service in a large area.”

 
The Montgomery County TID still doesn’t have the right-of-way across the whole area intended for the new rail line and it's not clear exactly what the track could look like beyond the first phase.
 

The MVRPC is taking comments on its plan through Monday Jan. 26.

 

This article has been updated as of Jan. 23, 2015 at 5:15 to reflect a response from Steve Stanley with Montgomery County TID.

 

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.