How CVG-downtown train could become a reality

Cincinnati Business Courier

A consultant has drafted a bill that, if passed by Congress, could pave the way for construction of a rail line between Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and downtown Cincinnati and/or one between CVG and the Queensgate rail yard.

Columbus-based Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter wrote three versions of legislation that would allow an airport like CVG to use revenue from passenger facility charges to construct a rail line between the airport and the urban core. PFCs are a per-ticket charge that fund capital projects at airports.

The legislation, which local officials hope can be attached to a bill reauthorizing the Federation Aviation Administration at the end of fiscal year 2015, would create a pilot program allowing up to five airports to charge $4.50 per ticket to use the revenue for transit projects. CVG would hope to be selected for one of them, but it would be up to the FAA through a competitive process.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune believes a $3 per ticket charge would bring in $24 million a year, enough money to fund a 30-year bond issue for a CVG-to-downtown rail project.

Under current FAA regulations, a rail project of that scope could not be funded, but an airport stop on an existing rail line could.

Steve Tugend, a consultant with Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter, told members of the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District on Monday that airlines have traditionally opposed passenger facility charges, so any legislation would need to be narrowly crafted.

The different versions of the bill contemplate various scenarios: One would make airports choose between a $4.50 passenger facility charge for transit and for other capital projects, another would allow a combination of the two and the third would allow charges for both transit and other capital projects.

A complete, CVG-downtown rail line could be built with the passenger facility charge revenue. But because they may not directly benefit the airport, other stops between downtown and the airport probably would have to be built and paid for using other pots of transportation money, whether they be state, local or federal.

Tugend and TID officials plan to present their proposal to the Cincinnati area’s congressional delegation, CVG officials and chambers of commerce.