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States eager for Ohio’s rail money

by Policy in Practice on November 28, 2010

The Dispatch reports this morning on the on-going push and shove between rail proponents and the governor-elect.

John Kasich, who asserted throughout his candidacy that if he were elected no train would be built in Ohio, has confirmed as much regularly since he defeated Ted Strickland earlier this month. That has made governors happy in states like North Carolina and New York, where there is widespread support for building high-speed rail to spur economic development and advance transportation infrastructure.

Rail proponents haven’t thrown in the towel just yet in Ohio, however:

3C advocates have orchestrated an extensive lobbying effort, blitzing Kasich with a letter-writing campaign, resolutions from city councils and college student governments, Facebook crusades and other means exhorting him to reconsider.

Cincinnati City Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls introduced such a resolution last week. Among other things, the resolution – identical to one approved earlier by the Cleveland City Council – notes that Ohio is the nation’s fifth-largest rail industry supplier, with 220 companies employing 26,000 workers.

“We need a national transportation system that includes rail, but this also is about jobs and economic development,” Qualls said. “I hope Mr. Kasich rethinks this.”

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory intends to make a similar pitch to Kasich, and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune has offered up a Plan B, saying that if the $400 million is not used to develop the 3C line, perhaps it could instead go toward other regional transit programs.

Even LaHood has urged Kasich to proceed with the 3C plan. “This rail program will create thousands of jobs and spur economic development – a shot in the arm that Ohio could well use,” LaHood wrote Kasich.