COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–Excitement is growing after renderings of a potential Amtrak station in the heart of Columbus were released this week.

The proposal shows how train tracks located near the Columbus Convention Center could be used by adding the station to the center itself.

“You’ve got that visitor that can come, leave their car, go to Cleveland, go to Cincinnati, go wherever,” said Ryan Thorpe, Asst. General Manager of the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

“With the new hotel coming online, that’s going to put the whole convention center in a different bracket, if you will, in terms of attracting shows and bringing shows to Columbus. Adding a train station into that mix will just really create that additional visitor option for Columbus that doesn’t exist now,” said Thorpe.

“There’s a certain amount of poetry to that location since part of the convention center complex footprint is on the footprint of the old Columbus Union station,” said Marc Magliari with Amtrak.

The “3C+D” corridor would connect Columbus to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton, perhaps providing a level of interaction the state has never seen.

“If you want to go see a Reds game, If you want to go see a Cleveland Browns game, this’ll be a safe to get people safely from professional events in the state of Ohio,” said Thea Ewing, Director of Transportation & Infrastructure with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

“Also, it’d be a great leveraging tool for businesses who want to connect folks to jobs in other cities. A service like this would be available to people who maybe don’t own their own vehicle…they also maybe want to connect with family member in Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Dayton. This will be another way for them to access those folks.”

Amtrak received about $66 billion from the Infrastructure law signed by President Biden in November. The proposal for Columbus would cost just a fraction of that – around $23 million, but that doesn’t mean the project is a sure thing.

“The money’s there but it hasn’t been dedicated to us yet,” Ewing said.

The next step for the project will be a competition of sorts between communities for that funding, led by the Federal Railroad Authority.

“They’ll set priorities on what routes are the most important to either resume or increase. Once we know what that roadmap looks like, we can work with the communities, work with MORPC, work with state DOT and everyone else to try and make it a reality,” Magliari said, adding the route is a top priority for Amtrak.

“Amtrak estimates that it will generate $130 million dollars per year in economic growth for the state of Ohio by opening up this passenger rail service,” said Don Brown, Executive Director & CEO of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority.

Approval of that funding — and how it’s timed to be distributed — will then determine if, when, and where, the new Amtrak station will be located in Columbus.

“We’re not selling tickets tomorrow. We’re probably not selling tickets in 2023. But is it out there somewhere as a real possibility? Yeah, it is…and the more organized these communities and these regions in these states are, the more likely it is to happen.

“And if you want it to happen, tell the people you vote for,” Magliari concluded.