Ohio Gov. John Kasich vs. the Cincinnati Streetcar

A good project is all ready to go in Cincinnati, but the car-is-king mentality of Ohio's governor could interfere. Photo: Urban Cincy

Ohio Governor John Kasich is reverting to form with his backwards-looking, anti-rail ways, and this time his target is the Cincinnati streetcar.

The Republican governor is trying to get his hands on $52 million allocated to a transit project that is expected to yield $1.5 billion in new investment in central Cincinnati. Problem is, the money comes from a federal grant and can’t be used to plug the state’s $8 billion deficit. Moreover, Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory Council — which was developed to remove politics from the funding allocation process — is solidly behind the streetcar.

Randy Simes at Network blog Urban Cincy has the details:

Local officials close to the Cincinnati Streetcar project believe Governor Kasich is attempting to strip the funds from the streetcar and reallocate them to the $2 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement which scored a paltry 44 points on TRAC’s transportation list. The other reality is that the money could go to the Eastern Corridor plan which had three components scoring 34, 39 and 48 points – all well below the Cincinnati Streetcar’s state-leading 84 points.

According to [Ken] Prendergast [executive director of All Aboard Ohio], the end result may be a another legal battle for the controversial governor. He says… that Cincinnati officials would have legal grounds to sue the state for not following its own criteria in awarding federal transportation funds.

“Why is our governor against redeveloping Cincinnati’s downtown and Over-the-Rhine areas with the streetcar? Steel rails offer a far superior path to jobs and growth and clean air than yet another asphalt road pitted with potholes,” concluded Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council.

Kasich’s militant anti-transit stance is all the more troubling given Census figures announced yesterday that nearly every major city in Ohio has suffered steep population losses, including Cincinnati, which shed 10.4 percent of its population. Cities like Cincinnati — which are the linchpins of the metropolitan areas that drive Ohio’s economy — are in desperate need of investments that will add vitality, not highways that will continue to suck away jobs and residents. The fact that Ohio’s governor doesn’t seem to understand that is more bad news for the embattled state.

Elsewhere on the Network today: PubliCola reports that education and density helped Seattle grow while many other cities shrank, according to one analysis. Grist summarizes the sometimes surprising statistics on which cities lead in the nation in green commuting. And Matt Yglesias highlights a zoning squabble in Washington D.C. to illustrate the kind of expense-producing headache that discourages developers from investing in the city.