Portune held a public hearing Feb. 4 to discuss the plan and get input from community leaders and residents.
Portune's proposal calls for the first phase to connect downtown Cincinnati with Lawrenceburg, Ind., using existing rail lines.
Jim Duane, executive director of OKI, and Tom Ewing, manager of environment and transportation for the Chamber of Commerce, expressed concerns at the hearing about implementing commuter rail on the west side as a first step to bringing commuter rail to the area.
Portune said, "The planners seem to be focusing on some of the hurdles without grasping the vision."
Do Duane and Ewing think they are being shortsighted?
Duane said no. "We certainly see the vision," he said. "We kind of started the vision in 1993."
Through a long-range transportation plan, OKI had studied the region and created a priority system, which determined that the Interstate-71 corridor should have rail first because there was the population to support it, he said.
The plan then calls for rail along the eastern corridor, Interstate-75 and Interstate-74 corridors and then to Lawrenceburg.
"We must take them one at a time," Duane said.
Ewing said he was not really a "planner," so he did not think that Portune was referring to him.
But, Ewing said, there are many factors to consider before a decision can be made about this project.
"(Portune) is on the right track," Ewing said. "But that doesn't mean it's easy to make a passenger rail out of a freight rail."
Ewing said that at the public meeting, he encouraged Portune to continue studying commuter rail, the region's existing rail infrastructure and rights-of-way.
Ignoring 'Smart Growth?'
Concerned Citizens of Western Hamilton County (CCWHC), the group of residents who are arguing for "smart growth" on the west side, continued last week to object to the development plan proposed by the Western Hamilton County Collaborative Steering Committee.
The citizen's group represents residents in the townships of Colerain, Crosby, Delhi, Green, Harrison, Miami and Whitewater; the villages of Addyston, Cleves and North Bend; and the city of Harrison.
Originally four growth plans were under consideration by the steering committee, ranging from a "do-nothing" plan to low growth to aggressive growth.
The steering committee initially had chosen a combination of moderate and maximum growth, saying that it was necessary to attract residents and businesses to Hamilton County who might otherwise move to Warren, Butler or Clermont counties.
The citizen's group preferred low growth in order to keep the rural nature of the area and maintain their way of life.
Both groups say their preferred plans will keep urban sprawl in check.
At a public meeting of the steering committee on Jan. 26 CCWHC asked the steering committee to reconsider the low-growth option and to make CCWHC a partner in the planning process.
On Feb. 3, the steering committee held another meeting to approve or modify its preferred plan.
Did the citizen's group think the steering committee listened to its Jan. 26 request?
"I believe we were ignored," said CCWHC member Bob Neal. "The meeting started with a cursory mention of the fact that most of the comments (at the Jan. 26 meeting) were in opposition to their preferred scenario."
Neal also said the steering committee made reference to a letter from CCWHC requesting reconsideration of the low-growth plan.
But, he said, that was the only mention of citizen input.
"We were basically just left out of the picture," he said. "They just didn't include anything we wanted and just went on their merry way," he said.