Rail in Ohio (Letter to the Editor)

Rail in Ohio (Letter to the Editor)

December 13, 2010
Originally published in The Columbus Dispatch

Outgoing Governor Strickland's last-ditch attempt to salvage wasteful transportation spending is not surprising. Most members of his party have long been drinking the Obama Department of Transportation's Kool-Aid. What is a bit surprising is that Strickland is still regurgitating the same tired justifications for the proposed passenger rail line, all of which have been thoroughly debunked. The proposed line isn't high-speed, for one. It would never generate enough fare revenue to finance itself, meaning every Ohio taxpayer would be buying a little piece of every train ticket sold. If the medium-speed rail line is ever built, Ohio taxpayers would likely be on the hook for a significant portion of future operating and capital costs. Ridership would range from disappointing to non-existent, given the cost- and time-superior alternatives, as well as the general poor state of U.S. passenger rail infrastructure. And there is no convincing evidence that the rail line would spur net-positive economic development. Rather, it would merely misdirect resources from more productive and socially beneficial projects. Of course, officials are free to follow Strickland's advice. But Ohioans should understand that this means turning Ohio into a beggar state, indefinite reliance on federal grants being the only way to keep this proposed boondoggle from draining state coffers in the long-run.