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'Shovel ready' Trains and Rails projects, at a crossroad

Marc Lefkowitz  |  01/16/09 @ 10:53am

A European-style rail system for Ohio, and America, stands at the crossroads, ready for its citizens to waive it forward.

The massive WPA-style stimulus package being debated by Congress offers the real change that Americans seek, but a few Representatives, including key members from Ohio could stand in the way of finally taking that bold step toward a sustainable transportation system.

Consider these key talking points from transportation option advocates All Aboard Ohio (with a link to send a message to Ohio's Congressional Delegation urging them to keep the proposed funding levels for transit and passenger rail intact, and a list of 'shovel ready' Ohio rail projects at the end):

All Aboard Ohio is calling on Ohio's Congressional Delegation to support a list of "Shovel Ready" federal stimulus projects identified last week by the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. In that list was $30.25 billion worth of highway and bridge projects, $12 billion for transit and nearly $5 billion for passenger rail. This week the House Appropriations Committee kept the funding levels intact for highways, but reduced transit to $8.9 billion and eviscerated passenger rail funding to just $1.1 billion.

"There are some really great stimulus projects in Ohio that could begin to create the kind of interconnected transportation system that is needed to reduce our travel costs, boost development in our historic cities and towns, increase our energy efficiency, reduce our carbon emissions and compete better with the rest of the world," said All Aboard Ohio Interim Executive Director Ken Prendergast. "That is the kind of change we can believe in. I hope Congress does too." A stimulus project list appears at the bottom of this press statement. Note that some of the projects are actually for federally required planning and environmental review so that those rail projects can become "shovel ready" for a long-term federal stimulus. "Unfortunately, it seems that repeated utterances of ?Roads-n-Bridges" have become a programmed response as the best way to boost jobs," Prendergast added. "It' not. Our nation became overdependent on driving during the 100 years when America was the world' biggest producer of oil. Now we are as dependent on imported oil as Europe, Japan and China. But while those nations are rebuilding their economies around trains and transit as well as walkable town centers, America is in danger of driving itself into an economic and environmental dead end." China is spending $88 billion on rail projects this year. European countries are shifting their infrastructure budgets from a dominance of "Roads-n-Bridges" to being in balance with "Trains and Transit." India will invest $30 billion on rail in 2009. Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Vietnam, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey and other nations are or will soon invest billions to build high-speed rail. Meanwhile America plans to spend more for short-lived benefits and less to invest in Trains and Transit that will transform a resource-constrained America for the coming century and beyond. "We ask everyone in Ohio to please contact their Congressperson today," Prendergast said. "America can do what is easy or it can do what is best for its economy over the long term. Either way, decisions made in Congress in the next few weeks will likely set a direction for this nation that will last for decades." You can click here to tell your representatives that you want Trains and Transit, not just Roads-n-Bridges.

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Here's a partial list of Ohio "Trains and Transit"" projects, submitted for federal stimulus program funding:

  • North Corridor Light Rail construction within Franklin County: $200 million; requested by the City of Columbus.
  • Downtown Streetcar system: up to $185 million; requested by the City of Cincinnati.
  • Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (3-C) Corridor intercity passenger rail service (Phase One): $100 million; requested by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the City of Cleveland.
  • Ohio Hub System passenger rail preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies: $100 million; requested by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the City of Cleveland.
  • Rehabilitation of Rapid Transit rail stations, tracks, bridges, electrical substations, and construction of a new East Side Transit Center near CSU: $62.9 million; requested by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and portions requested by the City of Cleveland.
  • Extend Euclid Corridor-type bus rapid transit service along Buckeye Road, East 55th Street and Clifton Boulevard: $50 million; requested by the City of Cleveland.
  • Ohio Hub - Tier One Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement: $15 million; requested by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
  • Phase II Lorain County Transportation Center (LCT/Greyhound bus, Amtrak trains), City of Elyria: $3.2 million; requested by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Lorain County Commissioners.
  • Future Phase of Amtrak Planning and Engineering Design: $2.5 million; requested by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

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