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Ohio rail commission OKs line lease study, approves W&LE grant and appoints executive director


The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) will conduct a study to determine if the agency should issue a long-term lease to the Ohio Central Railroad System for the state-owned Panhandle Line between Columbus and Mingo Junction.

ORDC commissioners and staff will conduct the study during the next three months and issue a report containing recommendations for the 160-mile line in January 2008.

The Ohio Central, which owns 10 short lines operating in Ohio and Pennsylvania, currently operates the Panhandle Line under a five-year lease. The company has been the operator since the mid-1990s, when the state purchased the line — which was slated for partial abandonment — from Conrail.

During last week’s board meeting, the ORDC also approved a $150,000 grant to the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. (W&LE) to repair a tunnel near Canton. Last year, two cabooses derailed in the tunnel, causing a partial collapse of an interior wall.

In addition, the ORDC named Matt Dietrich executive director. He had been serving as acting executive director since James Seney retired in August 2006. Prior to joining the commission in 2000 as secretary-treasurer, Dietrich held various positions at several public agencies, including the Ohio Department of Development.

An independent agency within the Ohio Department of Transportation, ORDC oversees freight and passenger railroad issues, grade crossing safety, and rail travel and tourism.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/17/2007