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Ohio may turn down federal money, scrap rail project

Published: April 5, 2010
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio legislators are considering walking away from $400 million in federal money and canceling plans for a new Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati intercity passenger service, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported. Supporters must get one Republican on a state board to support the plan, and the two serving there have both indicated they're skeptical of the plan.

State Republican legislators have pounced on a proposed schedule that has trains taking more than six hours to make the Cleveland-Cincinnati journey, an average of 39 mph. They've dubbed it "snail rail," and they note that even though federal money will pay to start service, the state will need to provide ongoing support.

Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat and rail supporter, pushed back against criticism, saying the proposed schedule was just one idea. He said simple fixes could raise the average speed to 46 mph or faster, which could knock an hour off transit times.

But opponents say even that speed won't change their minds. "I'm not sure that the difference between 39 mph and 45 mph makes that big of a difference," said state Sen. Jon Husted, R-Dayton.

The project's first test will come before the state controlling board, which will have to approve the initial $25 million in money for engineering and environmental studies. No date for the vote has yet been set. If the board rejects the spending, the $400 million will go back to the federal government for disbursement to other projects.
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