Voinovich Asks Congress to Help Ohio Redirect Train Funds

A proposed bill would grant the state special authority to put the $400 million designated for rail toward roads and bridges instead.

Outgoing Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) wants to give his state help in redirecting high-speed rail funds for use on roads and bridges, despite the wishes of the Obama administration.

Voinovich proposed a bill that would grant Ohio special authority to spend $400 million in federal funds at will. Incoming Gov. John Kasich (R) has repeatedly said that he would not use the money for a proposed passenger railroad between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati and that he wants to use it for highway work. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said that if states do not use the money as awarded, it will be redistributed to rail projects in other states.

The Voinovich bill faces long odds, since it has no co-sponsors and must compete for attention on a crowded lame-duck docket. Ohio's other senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, also opposes the bill. Voinovich spokeswoman Garrette Silverman said "there is always a chance" of passage and that Voinovich hopes Congress will let him move the bill through a unanimous consent vote.

Kasich said the train would be too slow -- a recent study put the average speed at 50 mph -- and would cost the state too much money.

Brown said he wants the funds spent on rail, since the project can bring construction jobs and would give the state an opportunity to be "a leader in rail manufacturing"

(Stephen Koff, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nov. 30). -- JP