A new Cincinnati Enquirer/Ohio Newspaper Poll shows a majority of Ohio voters don't support spending state dollars to run the 3C rail line.
Early accounts painted an idealized vision of Ohioans being whisked between their three principal cities the way the Europeans or Japanese are on quiet high speed electric bullet trains. Reality is the 3C will use the usual loud, stinky, deisel trains that Americans love to loathe, and the trips will take more than twice as long as driving.
Initial cost projections were that the system could be built for $250 million. Now the estimates are over $560 million. The project couldn't get past the paperwork stage without more than doubling the cost, and no reasonable person thinks it's going to get any lower.
Even with overly rosy ridership projections, the trains still wouldn't even come close to covering their costs of operation, let alone their capital costs. This latest poll shows voters have no appetite for a new money pit when we're still struggling to pay for the old ones.
Last year Governor Strickland requested and received legislative approval to apply for part of President Obama's $8 billion high speed rail stimulus. But that was back when it was a $250 million plan, and back when Strickland was promising to cover operating costs through fares. The Republican controlled Senate grudgingly approved it on the condition that Federal dollars cover 100% of the capital cost. The Feds have received over $50 billion in applications for the $8 billion available, so that condition isn't likely to be met. The Senate also included other provisions which would allow them to easily kill the 3C later if proved to be a boondoggle.
State Auditor Candidate David Pepper said he believed there was more public support for passenger rail in Ohio than the Ohio Newspaper Poll indicated. The Strickland administration intends to continue vigorously pursuing the 3C plan, despite public opposition.