Ohio rail plan subject to misinformation

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One mode of transportation missing or not as well known in the US is rail travel. In Europe, where gas prices are large and distances relatively short, rail travel is common. Here in the US the oil and auto industries got all the local urban rail systems torn up in the mid 20th century to force people to buy cars and gas. Now the momentum is swinging back but in Ohio the same tired argument is being heard – “it will cost too much…”. However the facts say different.

One argument being used is that building a passenger train that would connect Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland (the 3C rail plan) would cost too much to build and maintain in a state where budget issues are a common problem.

To the first part – building it will be expensive because the infrastructure was all torn up back in the 1950′s

The second part about the cost of maintaining the system, there is this:

It’s unfortunate to see fiscal conservatives resort to a double standard in claiming to protect Ohio’s taxpayers from the imminent doom of the Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (3C) passenger-rail project.

The hyperbolic Sen. Jon Husted, R-Kettering, even said he feared the 3C trains’ $17 million annual operating cost would grow into “the biggest money pit in state history.” Perhaps he forgot that the immensely larger, debt-ridden and justifiably celebrated Ohio canal system threatened to be just that to our state as a fledgling.

Or perhaps he mistook Ohio’s ballooning highway subsidy for the 3C trains’ operating bill. On behalf of Ohioans who seek 0.005 percent of the state’s transportation budget for First World travel options other than highways, I ask for fairer treatment.

The double standard is revealed in the $7 billion of highway projects due in the 3C corridor in the next few years: the innerbelt rebuild in Cleveland, the I-70/I-71 reconstruction in Columbus, the I-75 ramps project in Dayton and the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati. No one doubts that quality highways are needed. But no one has scrutinized how Ohio taxpayers can afford to sustain this massive infrastructure tomorrow.

In other words, at least $1 billion of ODOT’s operations and maintenance budget was from subsidies in 2010, and that will grow to $1.4 billion by 2017. Meanwhile, the State Highway Patrol’s $318 million annual budget is no longer funded by the gasoline tax. The patrol’s budget is now a general-fund subsidy to highways.

Trains are a better deal than highways

We need to start to move to alternative transportation modes and rail is one that is really needed.


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