Please e-mail your state TODAY. There is a key budget hearing scheduled for tomorrow.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is asking for legislative permission to seek 100-percent federal money from the stimulus bill to develop Ohio passenger rail service by the end of 2010. Ohio has 60 days to make that request. No dollar amount is specified at this time since the implementation study won't be finished until September. But no state funding is proposed to be used.
There is $8 billion in federal funds at a 100 PERCENT federal share available exclusively for passenger rail development. There will likely never be another time when the terms will be so favorable. Ohio needs to catch up to 23 competing states which financially support regional and intercity passenger rail -- 15 of which have less population density than Ohio. If the 3-C Corridor startup costs $100 million, Ohio would see 2,400 new jobs result with an increase in annual incomes of $50 million, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data. This is not about running trains or nostalgia. It's about creating jobs, providing mobility at one-third the cost of driving, travel productivity and comfort, as well as protecting the environment and our exposure to future oil price spikes. We cannot let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip by.
A news article is attached for background.
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
Legislators not sure now is right time for rail plans
With Ohio's economy losing steam, perhaps it's best to put on hold plans to connect the state's three largest cities by passenger rail, some state representatives said in a budget hearing last week.
Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, asked Transportation Department chief Jolene Molitoris whether the state should spend money on rail service at a time when an I-90 bridge in Cleveland is too dilapidated to carry trucks.
Speaking in a finance committee hearing on the state transportation budget, McGregor called trains "quite a romantic notion" but perhaps not the most practical thing in a recession.
Molitoris, a former federal railroad administrator, disagreed.
"I would call it a good business decision," she said. "The whole romantic notion is really not one I would apply to this at all."
Molitoris acknowledged that the passenger rail line would lose money and require a public subsidy. That's true of all passenger rail systems around the world, she said.
Still, she said, trains would help enhance economic development along the rail corridor, generating tax revenue. There also would be benefits for the environment and for passengers, she said.
Rep. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, said the state could improve the economy better by enhancing freight-rail service. Passenger rail, she said, wouldn't pay its own freight.
-- James Nash