This is old news to us here at 3BP. We cheered the death of the ridiculous boondoggle known as the 3C rail project. Governor Kasich promised to cancel it, and he did. Governors in Florida and Wisconsin did the same. One of the reasons was that we believed that the cost estimates were sure to skyrocket, and that Ohio taxpayers would get stuck paying the bill for a train that was slower than driving.
Today, the Plain Dealer looks at that decision almost a year later, and what has happened with other rail projects that didn’t get cancelled.
U.S. taxpayers have contributed $3.5 billion in federal stimulus to the initial, 178-mile leg of California’s 800-mile, high-speed rail project. And while not an inch of track has been laid, the cost overruns are already staggering.
A state report issued last month estimated the cost of the project at $98 billion — nearly triple the original estimate of $33 billion. That’s more than $122 million a mile. The completion date has been moved from 2020 to 2033. So gigantic are the overruns that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has held two hearings to examine how a project could go so wrong so soon.
And three weeks ago, California’s legislative budget office said the overruns are now so great that it is “highly uncertain” the project will ever be built.
With a couple of exceptions, newspaper editorial boards in the state have turned against the rail plan, as have some Democratic legislators who were once among its loudest cheerleaders. In November, a Washington Post editorial begged, “Somebody please stop this train.”
They also highlight other criticisms we had all along. The rail project promoted by Ted Strickland here in Ohio was a bad joke, and Governor Kasich was absolutely right to get rid of it.
Of all the rail projects awarded stimulus money, Ohio’s was by far the worst.
Ken Orski is a former administrator for the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration who for more than 22 years has published what the National Journal describes as “an influential and widely read transportation newsletter.” Orski told me the plan advocated by former Gov. Ted Strickland gave high-speed rail a bad name.
“The Ohio idea was really just marginal improvement in Amtrak service,” he said. “There has to be a place in the transportation spectrum for high-speed rail, but the Ohio project was one of the poster children for how not to do this.”
Kasich was right to kill Ohio’s snail-speed rail project. It’s too bad the $400 million wasn’t returned to the Treasury. Instead, it’s being wasted 2,500 miles to the west.
Thank you, Governor.