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Oxford approves contract for Amtrak platform project if rail expansion happens

Small stop in rural Ohio could have big impact on local Amtrak service, advocates say
Posted at 7:12 AM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 07:12:53-04

OXFORD, Ohio — Plans to build a platform for an Amtrak stop in Oxford took a solid step forward with City Council approval of a contract for architectural and engineering services for the project, the Journal-News reports.

Council approved a contract with AECOM Technical Services in a resolution April 20 at a cost not to exceed $250,000. Planning for an Amtrak stop has been in the works for several years with Amtrak signaling a possible expansion in Ohio.

“This is a historic moment. We are making a long-term investment,” Council member David Prytherch said. “There is risk, but good rewards long-term.”

The risks he mentioned include the fact Amtrak has not committed to having a stop in Oxford although expressing interest several times and costs for the platform still not being known. Final approval must come from CSX Railroad, which owns the railroad right of way.

The city committed $350,000 to the project on Jan. 3, 2017 and the next day, Miami University provided a letter of support, pledging the same amount, pending a memorandum of understanding between the city and Amtrak.

The AECOM contract recommendation was presented by City Service Director Mike Dreisbach, who also noted the support for the project from the Talawanda School District, which owns the Nelson-Morrow Building adjacent to the site chosen for the platform. He said that building is a key to the aesthetics of the site in hopes some arrangement can be made to remove it.

Prytherch said he wanted to make removal of the Nelson-Morrow building a part of the AECOM contract study and City Manager Doug Elliott said they would investigate a possible purchase of the building.

Dreisbach reminded council the Butler County Regional Transit Authority is also planning a bus facility near the site and the city had originally investigated finding one architect for both projects, but that turned out to not be possible.

He also told council the contract has separating points built into it so the work can be ceased if Amtrak or CSX indicate they no longer support having a stop here.

If the project is to proceed beyond the work in the AECOM contract, more funding will be required and Elliott said they are investigating potential grants to provide that funding.

Council Member Edna Southard said she hopes the design of the platform will include something to represent Oxford, possibly a mural, so outsiders coming through might be interested in later visiting here.

“We will work with the architect, but Amtrak has veto power,” Dreisbach said.

The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 News.