Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich rejects passenger train which he says will travel at an average speed of 39 mph

Governor-elect John Kasich rarely minces words when it comes to the proposed Cleveland-Cincinnati passenger train, declaring the idea “dead” on his watch while mocking the locomotives’ “high-speed” moniker.

The train, backed by incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, would run four times a day, making six stops (including Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati) during its 258-mile journey through Ohio. And it comes with a check for $400 million from the federal government, enough to have the train operational by the end of 2012, supporters say.

According to Kasich, the preferred rail plan — the one to advance Ohio’s economy — is to get more freight trains to ship Ohio-made goods to out-of-state locations. He calls the passenger train a “money pit” because it’s estimated it will cost the state about $17 million a year to maintain and operate it, with no guarantee that Ohioans will buy it. tickets to absorb these expenses.

But most of Kasich’s criticism of the passenger train has targeted its projected speed.

“They tried to give us $400 million to build a high-speed train that goes 39 miles an hour,” Kasich told CNN reporter John King in a Nov. 19 TV interview.

He said something similar the day after his election at a press conference in Columbus. Kasich recalled being at a deli in Plain City during the campaign trail where a model train was set up inside the restaurant in a huge circle.

“You know, I think this (toy) train is going faster than the 39 mph bullet train,” Kasich said. He was sarcastic, yes, but stuck to an underlying point that the proposed passenger train would travel too slowly for anyone to actually want to get on it.

Strickland’s administration says Kasich deliberately misleads Ohios about the train’s speed to win support for his idea to scrap the plan altogether and that the new governor knows its average speed will be over 39 mph.

Politifact Ohio decided to check it out.

The confusion over the train’s projected speed can actually be traced to the Strickland administration.

The original proposed schedule called for the train to make the trip from Cleveland to Cincinnati in 6.5 hours. While the top speed would be around 79 mph, the average would only be 39 mph. A person driving a car between the two cities could make the trip at posted vehicle speed limits in just over 4 hours.

To combat this criticism, the Ohio Department of Transportation hired a rail planning firm to study and revise the travel schedule. He surmised that by removing some curves and changing the planned route, it could shorten the journey time. ODOT released an updated report in September saying the new analysis cuts the 6.5 hour journey to 5 hours and 15 minutes and increases the average speed from 39mph to just over 50mph.

This report has not been disputed so far, and its average speed is consistent with average passenger train speeds in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma, according to ODOT.

That’s fast enough that Strickland officials want to keep this project on track. Strickland rejected Kasich’s request to withdraw the idea, saying not only will Ohioans take the train, but the plan could create about 16,000 jobs.

Additionally, the ODOT released a report in October stating that more Ohioans are riding passenger trains, evidence that the Strickland administration says the 3C train would be a success.

Kasich didn’t let go.

He wrote to both Strickland and President Barack Obama asking them to forget about the train program altogether and allow Ohio to use the $400 million for other infrastructure projects.

After the Obama administration denied that request, Kasich sought help from incumbent Republican Senator George Voinovich. In November, Voinovich introduced a bill allowing Kasich to bypass federal authorities and use the money to fix Ohio’s roads and bridges rather than build a passenger train. Bill, however, is not expected to survive.

Other states, meanwhile, have said they’d like Ohio’s share of rail money if Kasich didn’t want it.

So Kasich is correct that the federal government has approved a $400 million stimulus package for the development of high-speed rail service in Ohio.

But his use of 39 mph as the train’s average speed is based on projections the administration has dismissed and ignores the results of a more recent study that included changes to the rail route. This is an important detail; one that is necessary to keep things in context.

We rate Kasich’s claim on the 3C train as half true.

Jose P. Rogers