WARREN - What heartens Mayor Michael O'Brien about the prospect of a high-speed rail line operating through local communities between Cleveland and Pittsburgh is that it seems more than pie in the sky.
Known as the Ohio Hub, the plan has been in the works since 2000. There's a reason why O'Brien believes the $650 million project could become a reality.
Congressional districts in both Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania are working together to create a funding cycle. The project, he said, could be completed in seven to eight years.
''It's an excellent use for the expenditure of federal dollars,'' O'Brien said. '' It meets the economic development and transportation needs of two states.''
Trains would run between Cleveland and Pittsburgh at speeds between 70 and 110 mph. Among the stops would be Warren, Youngstown and New Castle.
The route would be a welcome boost to a research and development corridor that officials are promoting in the area spanning Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Walt Goode of the Regional Chamber of Commerce, said. Such a transportation service would be the perfect link for the corridor.
Not only would it conveniently move commuting to and from job sites, but it would greatly improve the quality of life, Goode said. People could easily travel to entertainment in the two major cities, or anywhere else in between, he noted.
''Certainly it becomes more attractive with the price of fuel,'' Goode said. ''It's a mechanism that can take away some of that burden (fuel costs).''
Rail service is making a comeback nationwide, O'Brien said. That is the case both with passenger and commercial service, he said.
''I'm excited about this project,'' the mayor said.
Meanwhile, while waiting for the Ohio Hub to get rolling, Youngstown Councilwoman Carole Rimedio-Righetti hasn't given up on the prospect of luring Amtrak back to her city. The company discontinued passenger service to Youngstown in 2005.
Conditions have changed since that happened, she said.
''Amtrak came in late, at about 2 a.m.,'' she said of its stop at the B&O facility near the downtown.
Not only was that an inconvenient hour, but some buildings in the vicinity attracted transients that worried potential travelers, Rimedio-Righetti said. Those structures have since been demolished, the councilwoman noted.
Despite those problems, hundreds of Mahoning Valley residents used the train while it was operating. She believes even more will respond if the services resumes.
''I think rail service is the wave of the future,'' the councilwoman said. ''Before I'm out of office, we're going to have a train.''
Rimedio-Righetti, chairman of council's transportation committee, said she plans to invite Amtrak officials to a committee meeting in November. She said she would given them a small tour to demonstrate how the B&O vicinity has been cleaned up.
O'Brien said a terminal for Warren could be placed at the corner of South and Main Streets, across from the fire station. The city owns the vacant property.
The terminal doesn't have to be elaborate, the mayor said. Located only two blocks from Courthouse Square, it could serve as a hub for a variety of recreational, dining and shopping locations in the area, he noted.
Festivals and attractions such as the amphitheater and Packard Museum could attract visitors from Youngstown, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the mayor said.
A high-speed rail line would also allow people to purchase homes at less expensive prices in the Mahoning Valley and commute easily to their jobs in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, he said.
''An hour and 15-minute train ride is both affordable and comfortable,'' O'Brien said. ''You could text or phone, eat or read while traveling back and forth.''