They say elections have consequences, and in Ohio we are beginning to see that. One of the consequences of John Kasich’s narrow victory over Ted Strickland in the race for Ohio Governor will be the rejection of plans to establish a passenger rail corridor between Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Kasich has declared that the project is “dead,” and with Republicans in control over both Houses in the Ohio General Assembly he undoubtedly will get his way on that point.
The “3C Rail Corridor” project was going to be funded, in significant part, with $400 million in federal funds, as well as by ongoing state contributions. Kasich’s point is that the project is a white elephant that will require future state budget expenditures that Ohio simply cannot afford in its current budget predicament. The return of passenger rail to Ohio has long been a dream of many people, but others raised serious questions about the viability of the project because the trains would have been slower, costlier, and less direct than driving from Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland.
The federal funds are earmarked for the project, so the $400 million must be returned to the U.S. government. Wouldn’t it be a good start on our federal budget problems if other newly elected governors followed Kasich’s lead and returned federal funds for costly projects that don’t really make sense in their states? In an era of trillion-dollar deficits, $400 million doesn’t seem like much, but — as I say when Kish and I discuss household budgeting — every little bit helps.