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Environment


Federal money for NEO National Park
$3.2m to help refurbish Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad cars
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
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In The Region:

The Federal Transit Administration is handing out 41 million dollars in grants in this month for projects in the nation’s National Parks. Today, (Tues) the FTA announced that the largest grant among all the federal park properties will go to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports the money is earmarked for improvements to the Scenic Railroad.  

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The Cuyahoga Valley National Park regularly ranks in the top ten most visited national parks in the country.   Park Superintendent Stan Austin told a gathering of dignitaries in a railroad car at the train station in Independence that about 2 ½ million people visit the park each year .

 “I’m the envy of other superintendents across the nation because we have a scenic railroad.”

And out of 58 transit projects in 24 states that won grants, it’s the Cuyahoga Valley getting the most money:  $3.2 million.  Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff says the Northeast Ohio park beat out some stiff national competition for the grants. 

 “In part because it’s serving 2.5 million people in a concentrated area; in part because the passenger count on this railroad had grown; in part because the infrastructure is older and if we don’t replace it we’re going to lose this very valuable asset…. It’s really an elemental part of the park’s experience for a lot of families.”

The federal grants will help renovate four train cars that are as much as 60 years old.  The president of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Steve Wait, says it will also update to a greener locomotive.

  “We’ve been testing a green locomotive here in the park that saved about 70% of fuel usage and gave us high efficiency so you’re reducing the carbon footprint through a new and efficient locomotive which will pull more tonnage, which we can add more cars but then it also using less fuel.”

Floods have damaged the tracks in years past but Wait says they are in good shape now. 

“ No, the national aprk has invested a great deal of money over the last 6-8 years.  They’ve invested a lot in the bank stabilization along the river and in upgrading the tracks so all the floods this year didn’t’ really affect the railroad. “

The grants are part of a program to cut pollution, traffic and noise in the national parks.

Other parts of the Cuyahoga Valley project include renovating a second car to carry bicycles,  updating the power generator car, adding another handicapped-accessible car, and building a footbridge so pedestrians can cross the Cuyahoga River to the Rockside Train depot in Independence. The railroad connects to and runs through the park from Independence to Canton.
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