When Ohio voters elected John Kasich as Governor, they also voted to end the 3-C passenger rail project.
And a recent column from Brent Larkin at the Cleveland Plain Dealer helped us realize just how close we came to making a huge mistake.
…in a vain attempt to sell this project to the public, state officials changed their story so often it made the head swim. Truth is, one needn’t be Nostradamus to project cost overruns totaling hundreds of millions of dollars — with the money to cover those overruns coming directly from the pockets of Ohio taxpayers.
When the Obama administration offered Ohio $400 million for the rail project, Strickland administration officials essentially said, “Sure, that should cover it.” But just months earlier, as part of the state’s application to the feds, the administration placed the startup cost at $563.7 million.
It gets worse.
A Government Accounting Office study of transportation projects, requested by Congress, concluded in March 2009 that passenger rail projects “had the highest cost escalation out of all the transportation modes studied — averaging 45 percent higher than estimated.”
ODOT’s ridership predictions called for an annual taxpayer subsidy of $17 million over 20 years. But that same GAO report cited a study of 27 rail projects that found ridership forecasts for 90 percent of the projects were overestimated, with 67 percent overestimated by more than two-thirds.
What a mess.
Members of the train cult will keep making up projections about jobs lost. Of course, these were the same people that said Ted Strickland’s internal poll numbers had him up six points.
The fact is, it’s easy to make numbers up.
But with an $8 billion deficit reality staring us in the face, we can’t afford to play games with the exact kind of project that has been historically proven to be a net negative.
To solve the budget crisis Ted Strickland leaves behind, we need to go with what works – reducing government, not increasing its obligations.