From the very beginning of the effort, we covered former governor Ted Strickland’s proposed project to build a “high-speed” rail line connecting Ohio’s three largest cities. It immediately became a point of differentiation between him and John Kasich during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
Strickland insisted it would create jobs, and couldn’t turn down the $400 million in “stimulus” funds offered to help pay for it. We argued, and Kasich agreed, that given the speed of the train, plus the costs and inconveniences involved, that ridership would be low. Since I am originally from the Columbus area but now live in NE Ohio, I travel back and forth quite often. So I examined whether the train would be a viable alternative for me.
I get in my car, and drive directly to my destination in 2 hours at a cost of about $12 in gas.
Using the 3C
I get in my car and drive to the train station. 15 minutes.
I park my car and wait for the train. 30 minutes or more.
I board the train and ride it to the train station in Columbus. 4 hours.
Rent a car. 15 minutes and mucho bucks.
Drive to my final destination. 15 minutes.
So let’s see. 2 hours and $12 versus around 5 hours and a lot more money for a train ticket and rental car. Gee, which one will I choose? Yes, I know I don’t need the rental car if I have someone to pick me up. I’m sure my family will really appreciate driving me back and forth.
The other main objection to the train project, is that we predicted that there would be cost overruns. Strickland was promoting it as a free project from the feds, and that the $400 million grant would cover the startup costs. Kasich also pointed out that we couldn’t afford it, and that the cost estimates were probably too low. What would happen if the cost of the project doubled? Would the federal government help pay for the overruns? No, Ohio taxpayers would get stuck with the bill.
Want to take a guess at what’s happening with California’s high-speed rail project?
Amid a stagnant economy, a staggering stock market, governments at all levels straining to stay in the black and taxpayers already burdened to the hilt, the last thing Ohio needs is a commitment to spend even more. Given that, Gov. John Kasich is looking like a genius for refusing federal high-speed rail money.
One needs look only at California — which Ohio government more and more had begun to resemble — to see the folly of government-subsidized high-speed rail. The Golden State’s cost for a relatively small piece of the state’s overall high-speed rail pipe dream has almost doubled. The federal government isn’t picking up any of that doubling in cost, leaving already strapped California taxpayers to pay the bill.
It took enough hard choices to close the $8 billion deficit that the Strickland administration left us with. Gambling that a slow-speed rail system that nobody would ride wouldn’t cost Ohioans hundreds of millions more on top of that would have been a dumb decision.
Thank you, Governor Kasich for stopping this boondoggle. That decision saved us untold millions.