Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gov. Kasich: Tin Soldiers and Nixon's Coming

14 months ago, Kasich promised to kill the 3c's plan if elected:

He was elected and he did kill the project. I have plenty to say myself, and probably will return to this subject at some point, but here I'm simply reposting recent remarks by All Aboard Ohio's Ken Prendergast from page 179 of UrbanOhio's discussion of Ohio's defunct 3C's rail plan.

The 3C Corridor is one of the top-10 most heavily traveled intercity routes in the United States, according to the US Dept of Transportation. And the 3C project would have given Columbus Amtrak service to the east via Cleveland then through New York state -- the flattest and fastest route to the east. The link wasn't touted as much as it probably should have, but such travel would been possible had the guv kept the money to upgrade the rail lines to the same quality as the direct Chicago-East Coast lines through Toledo and Cleveland. Instead, Columbus remains the largest metropolitan area in North America and possibly the Western Hemisphere without any regularly scheduled passenger rail services, and few local officials seem interested in doing anything about changing that dubious honor. Consider this recent, sad example.... US Railcar Corp. had to ask the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority to sponsor a grant to develop a manufacturing facility in the Columbus suburb of Gahanna! Why? Because local officials wouldn't support it. If Central Ohio won't financially support passenger rail while other states/regions do, then why should passenger rail come there?

But why does Northern Ohio have Amtrak service? Because congressional leaders along that route, especially in Cleveland, fought for it in 1975 as Amtrak's first experimental route. Today, the Lake Shore Limited is one of Amtrak's most heavily used trains. The Capitol Limited was rerouted through Toledo and Cleveland in 1990 after track was downgraded through Canton, Mansfield and Lima.

Then why does Cincinnati have Amtrak service? Because Congressman Harley Staggers Sr. and Senator Robert Byrd both of West Virginia fought to include the Cardinal route in Amtrak's initial system in 1971 to link their state with the East Coast and Chicago. And they fought to keep it, albeit with service reduced to thrice-weekly operations, in the face of repeated Amtrak budget cuts in the 1980s and early 1990s. Cincinnati got and kept its trains because there was no higher quality rail route between West Virginia and Chicago.

No Senator or Congressional leader in Columbus has fought to keep passenger rail since Amtrak's creation 40 years ago. It's why Columbus lost the New York City-Kansas City National Limited in 1979. If a Congressman didn't fight to put or keep your city on the Amtrak route map, then Amtrak isn't going to do it for you. Same deal happened with mapping out federal highway routes. Ohio had won $400 million in no-match federal funds -- as good as it gets -- to put Columbus back on Amtrak's map. Never before has no-match federal dollars been provided for passenger rail, let alone in such large amounts. And Ohio threw it away. Why? In the hopes of getting a better deal?

If you want rail infrastructure that enables fast, drive-time competitive Amtrak service between Columbus and Pittsburgh to the East Coast, as well as to Columbus to Chicago, be prepared for a price tag in excess of $400 million. The highest quality, least expensive route with the greatest ridership potential for Columbus is the 3C Corridor. But if Central Ohio wants something else, then it should seek funding leveraged by some of its own because the no-match rail grants were a one-shot stimulus deal and they're all gone. Local officials should be prepared for a higher start-up cost, leveraged by a 20% non-federal funding match such as from the state or local governments (meaning if Ohio wants to reapply for a $400 million grant, it will now have to pony up $100 million of its own funding to get it). The per passenger-mile operating subsidy would be higher too, based on the Ohio Hub studies, since no Ohio-involved passenger rail route was as promising as 3C when it came to ridership, revenue or operating subsidy per passenger-mile.

But we keep hoping and fighting for change. And I hope you will too, including sharing some ideas on how to get train service back to Ohio's third-largest metropolitan area.

Read more:,18328.5340.html#ixzz1fuxJWclG

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