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Give us something to cheer about

February 9, 2010 - Rob Weaver
Tuesday, Gov. Ted Strickland groused about critics of the state’s plan to use $400 million in federal stimulus money to develop passenger rail service between Cleveland and Cincinnati.
The governor called such critics ‘‘cheerleaders for failure.’’
OK, if the gov wants me to lead cheers for a 79-mph startup service connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, give me something to cheer about.
Don’t tell me how the $400 million will create at least 8,000 jobs. Do tell me whether the project will temporarily employ 8,000 people during its development or will lead to the creation of 8,000 new, permanent, private-sector jobs. There’s a difference.
Don’t tell me state funds won’t be used to develop the rail service. I pay federal taxes, too, and eventually I or my descendants will have to pay for that $400 million from the last stimulus bill. Do tell me how the state will raise the $17 million or so that would be needed each year to subsidize the service annually.
Don’t just say the service eventually would be part of a higher-speed system that would connect to the Midwest and East Coast. Do tell me how such a system would be cheaper, faster and more convenient than driving, taking a bus or hopping a jet to the same destinations.
Taxpayers already have subsidized development of an interstate highway system and airports, and continue to subsidize maintenance and expansion of those transportation modes. Tell those taxpayers how much fuel prices have to rise before rail travel becomes a more attractive alternative.
But don’t foist another money-losing public project upon a wary electorate and complain when taxpayers fail to start leading cheers for the plan.


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