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In memoriam: Ohio rail supporter, 'pragmatic visionary' James Seney


James Seney, a former executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) and a passionate rail supporter in the state, died June 2 in a boating accident at Lake of the Woods, Ontario. He was 71.

Seney led ORDC as executive director from 2000 to 2006. A Rail Corridor Safety Program begun during his tenure resulted in a significant reduction in grade crossing fatalities. Seney also oversaw the management and operation of three state-owned rail lines, and was involved in rail-related economic development projects in virtually every Ohio county.

In addition, he played a major role in the development of the “Ohio Hub,” the state’s long-term plan for revitalizing passenger-rail service, establishing high-speed rail service and expanding freight-rail capacity.

“Jim Seney was a pragmatic visionary. It was his leadership that brought us the Ohio Hub plan and the bipartisan support for it,” said All Aboard Ohio Chairman Ron Sheck in a prepared statement. “He understood the political and economic benefits of jointly developing rail infrastructure for freight and passengers. And he knew that it needed to be regional and evolutionary, growing from a single 79-mph route linking Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, to a network of progressively higher-speed routes connecting Ohio to its neighboring states and Canada.”

Seney previously was mayor of Sylvania, Ohio, from 1977 to 1995, and served the state departments of transportation and development as a transportation liaison. He also co-founded the Ohio Port Authorities Council and served on the board of the Inland River Ports & Terminals Association.

“His family and immediate friends are hurting the most from the sudden and tragic loss of this man,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “But the rest of Ohio will miss him, too. I only hope that his death will motivate more people to follow in his footsteps and pursue Jim Seney’s dream in the same inclusive and determined manner in which he pursued it.”

Seney is survived by his wife, Dawn, and six children.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/6/2012