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Robert Higgs
By Robert Higgs January 10, 2011

Kasich successful in halting $400-million, high-speed rail project

Newly sworn-in Gov. John Kasich wasn't shy about his distaste for plans to spend $400 million on high-speed rail development in Ohio.

He declared during the campaign that the proposed Cleveland-to-Cincinnati passenger train would be "dead” under his watch and derided its "high speed” moniker.

The train would have made four runs a day, making six stops (including Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati) over the 258-mile route. The federal government committed $400 million to help get the train up and running by late 2012.

Outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland said the project was important for its potential to create jobs in a developing industry. Kasich rejected the idea as too expensive for Ohio (it would require an annual $17 million subsidy) and unlikely to draw ridership to pay those expenses.

After the election, Kasich wrote to Strickland urging that he not spend any more money on the project, given his opposition. He also appealed to President Barack Obama, requesting that the president "make provisions” for the federal-stimulus money to be used on other infrastructure projects in Ohio.

The Obama administration, unable to change Kasich's mind, revoked the grant.

In a letter Dec. 8, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, specifically revoked $385 million from Ohio. Nearly $15 million was already committed toward preliminary engineering.

LaHood said the money would be sent to California, New York, Florida and other states planning high-speed train service.

Kasich said he had hoped the federal government would let Ohio use the $400 million to fix bridges, freight rail crossings and roads in Ohio. Or, in the alternative, the money should have gone to the Treasury for debt reduction, he said.

But the stimulus bill from 2009 required the money be spent on high-speed lines, the Transportation Department said. And LaHood noted in a letter to Kasich after the election that the stimulus bill included $1.1 billion for 492 projects improving roads, bridges, transit and airports in Ohio.

Regardless, Kasich's pledge during the campaign was that "the 39 mph high-speed train is dead when I become governor."

We rate this promise as Kept.

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