A state legislative panel approved a request from the Ohio Department of Transportation to set aside $450,000 in funding to study the cost of setting up passenger rail service among the state’s major cities.

Gov. Ted Strickland has promoted the rail plan as part of his two-year transportation budget. He estimated it would cost roughly $250 million.

Tentative plans call for running passenger service along existing freight tracks between Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland.

ODOT officials would hire a California-based firm to study the cost of the project, which, if implemented, would likely be financed with federal stimulus funds, according to reports.

A total of $935.7 million in stimulus money is coming to Ohio for transportation projects. The state last week identified some 150 projects totaling $774 million that would get the funding.

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