Also Ohio leaves Midwest rail compact after 11 yearsCONTACT: Ken Prendergast, All Aboard Ohio Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org (216) 288-4883
March 13, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
COLUMBUS – When the two-year budget for the Ohio Department of Transportation comes up for a final vote in the coming days, it will likely be without an increase in funding for growing public transit, rail and bike alternatives. The reason is that ODOT wants to push as much construction money to highways where per-capita driving has been declining for eight straight years, according to Federal Highway Administration statistics.
State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) attempted to get a $35 million Ohio Transportation Choices Fund established within ODOT. Her efforts were rebuffed along a party-line vote in the Transportation Committee. A similar effort by State Representative Matt Lundy (D-Avon Lake) was turned down two weeks ago in the Ohio House.
All Aboard Ohio is one of 24 organizational members of the Ohio Transportation Choices Coalition that sought the fund and an increase in funding for Ohioans’ growing use of transportation alternatives.
ODOT spends only 1% of its $3 billion annual budget on transit even though 9% of Ohio households have no car, Census data shows. Many more households have multiple wage earners sharing just one car. About 15.5% of federal gas tax revenues are required to go to transit. Ohio will be unable to tap most of those funds for two years to connect more Ohioans to jobs, healthcare and education. On average, fewer than one-third of available jobs are within a 90-minute transit trip.
Also, Senator Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard), ranking minority member of the Transportation Committee, offered an amendment drafted by Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) that would have kept ODOT’s membership in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. It also was defeated along party lines, saving a grand total of $15,000 per year from ODOT’s $3 billion budget.
“These actions by ODOT and the state’s current Republican leadership are penny-wise and pound-foolish,” said All Aboard Ohio Chairman Ronald Sheck. “They are undoing recent bipartisan progress to expand alternatives to an overbuilt highway system that young people are walking, biking and riding away from. ODOT’s financial woes will only accelerate as Baby Boomers retire. It’s time for ODOT to think outside the car.”
Sheck is a retired transportation administrator whose career included positions in public transportation and rail in New Mexico and Florida and most recently as Urban Rail Program Manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation. He also worked as a consultant on the Access Ohio plan in 1992.
He notes that nearly all passenger rail services in the Midwest cross state lines and require inter-state coordination that membership in the compact would provide. That includes Ohio Amtrak routes which all go to Chicago, including the “Lake Shore” route which has seen ridership grow 33% since 2000 to levels not seen in 40 years. Service improvements are more difficult without the inter-state coordination.
“I’ve seen first-hand the importance of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia working together to develop the Amtrak Cascades service which has averaged nearly 10% growth each year for 17 years,” Sheck said. “Federal funding for passenger rail improvements can only go to states and compacts of states. Ohio needs to stay involved, not isolated.”
Ohio’s neighbors in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin will remain in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. Ohio has been a member of MIRPC since 2002 thanks to the Republican leadership of Gov. Bob Taft and Jeffry Armbruster, then a Senator from North Ridgeville.
All Aboard Ohio hopes that the days of bi-partisanship will return. We thank Gov. Taft, Sen. Armbruster, Sen. Cafaro, Sen. Skindell and Rep. Lundy for trying to give Ohioans a multi-modal transportation system that lets them fully participate in their state’s economy.