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Ohio Gov. John Kasich vs. the Cincinnati Streetcar

10 March 2011 10 Comments

Ohio Governor John Kasich is back to his backwards-looking, anti-rail ways, and this time his target is the Cincinnati streetcar.

The Republican governor is trying to get his hands on $52 million allocated to the green transportation project that is expected to yield $1.5 billion in new investment in inner-city Cincinnati. Problem is, the money comes from federal grant reserved for transportation projects and can’t be used to plug the state’s $8 billion deficit. Moreover, Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory Council — which was developed to remove politics from the funding allocation process — is solidly behind the streetcar.

Randy A. Simes at Network blog Urban Cincy has the details:

Local officials close to the Cincinnati Streetcar project believe Governor Kasich is attempting to strip the funds from the streetcar and reallocate them to the $2 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement which scored a paltry 44 points on TRAC’s transportation list. The other reality is that the money could go to the Eastern Corridor plan which had three components scoring 34, 39 and 48 points – all well below the Cincinnati Streetcar’s state-leading 84 points.

According to [Ken] Prendergast [executive director of All Aboard Ohio], the end result may be a another legal battle for the controversial governor. He says that at attempt to move the funds from the streetcar to another, lower-ranking transportation project, that Cincinnati officials would have legal grounds to sue the state for not following its own criteria in awarding federal transportation funds.

“Why is our governor against redeveloping Cincinnati’s downtown and Over-the-Rhine areas with the streetcar? Steel rails offer a far superior path to jobs and growth and clean air than yet another asphalt road pitted with potholes,” concluded Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council.

Kasich’s militant pro-highway, anti-transit stance is all the more troubling given Census figures announced yesterday that nearly every major city in Ohio had suffered steep population losses, including Cincinnati, which shed 10.4 percent of its population. Cities like Cincinnati — which are the lynchpin of the metropolitan areas that are Ohio’s economic drivers — are in desperate need of investments that will add vitality, not highways that will continue to suck away jobs and residents. The fact that Ohio’s governor doesn’t seem to understand that is more bad news for the embattled state.

-A.S.

Once again, this article originally appeared on Streetsblog, which has a dedicated stream of revenue to pay me to write, and by the way is awesome.

  • Eric Planey

    Streetcars can revive downtown and city corridors, and should be considered. This is especially true when gas is approaching $4/gl. Moving people via rail is effective, and productive for society.

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    OK, I give you my libertarian slanted opinion straight up.

    It sounds like something from outer space here, but transit actually was once funded by private companies often in alliance with private devlopers.

    Put your planning and thinking where your mouth is. If the street car line really will open up 1.5 billion in real estate development opportunities–a TOD type business plan should be developed.

    This may mean granting real estate along the line to the builders and operators of the line–as they do in Hong Kong. Another option is to have a tax targeted at the owners of properties closest to the line since they are likely to see the jumps in land values as a result.

    Of course this means eliminating any parking requirements or height requirments and other zoning restrictions near the line. In the case of historic OTR, this will mean lower tax rates on owners not allowed to take full advantage by building bigger/newer.

    One of the greatest harms government funding has done is to separate development from costs and rational economic logic.

  • schmange

    Fine, John. I’ll buy that argument, as long as it goes for highways too. I’d like to see Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Appleby’s pick up the tab for an interchange, rather than working people in Cincinnati who see their home prices decline as a result of the sprawl it creates.

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    Anyway, it’s a big LOL on Cinncinati since I imagine they blew a big chunk of their cash and goodwill on those waterfront stadiums, which create mass peak load traffic demand, dead spaces and the continued need for a gross waterfront highway.

    I mean it’s a real laugh since the city is right accross from another state. Anyone who moves accross the Ohio can enjoy the baseball and football stadiums while not paying a dime of tax money.Did people spend 5 minutes thinking about this?

    I understand that some of these costs had to do with flood control issues but most did not.

    Now finally, they are thinking about things that may add real value to city residents and they have no money.

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    “Fine, John. I’ll buy that argument, as long as it goes for highways too.”

    Right! let’s do that. Kasich and many Republicans claim to be for free markets, small government and capitalism–and many of them actually are. However, it’s pretty obvious that government highway and other sprawl infrastructure funding is in blatant contradiction to those values. This is a vast hidden welfare program.

    This is the right arguement to make and many so called environmental and so called free market organizations should be making it.

  • schmange

    Yes. Unfortunately the new ODOT director is a former asphalt industry lobbyist. So far Kasich’s record on highway spending points more to favor trading than fiscal conservatism.

    Jerry Wray, of ODOT, was begging the federal government to offer a higher match a couple weeks ago in Columbus because he said at the rate things are going Ohio isn’t going to be able to afford to maintain its highway system, much less build new. As far as I know, though, Kasich is still planning a 1/2 billion highway expansion for outside of Cincinnati.

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    LOL, that’s what I’m counting on. In a few years the rubber will meet teh pothole or collapsing bridge and most of this infrastructure will fall apart.

    Government doesn’t even account for real depreciation and repair costs like a private business is supposed to. The real budget holes, if we include that are beyond vast.

    No money will be there at all. Even worse is that since business logic played no role in the planning no private operators will want many of these roads. Even if they were tolls, the costs would never pay for themselves.

  • Pingback: Ohio Gov. John Kasich vs. the Cincinnati Streetcar « Kasich Sucks

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    Not that any of this is funny. I just don’t know what else to do.

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    OK no problems. Reports of gunfire at protests in Saudi Arabia and troops moving east supress unreast. Calls for a “Day of Rage” after Friday prayers tomorrow.

    Gunfire, rage and unrest in Eastern Saudi Arabia where they produce most of their oil. No problems, move along, nothing to fear about gas prices.