19 March 2011

The Asphalt Sheriff

Kasich says "There's a new sheriff in town"

And that guy is Jerry Wray, a guy who worked as an asphalt lobbyist for the the past 11 years:

...Kasich tapped Jerry Wray as the next director of the Ohio Department of Transportation...

…”We’re going to be looking at the program and making sure it is the right size and trying to review it from the viewpoint of safety, economic development and, of course, congestion relief,” Wray said.

Wray also said the $150 million that current Gov. Ted Strickland in October promised to give to city transit systems in Ohio over the next three years also might be in jeopardy...

…After retiring from ODOT in 1999, Wray became vice president of Flexible Pavements of Ohio, an asphalt industry lobbying association.

Voters in the state are having significant buyers remorse about the results of last fall's election. In a rematch 55% say they would now vote for Ted Strickland to just 40% who would vote for Kasich. -Weigel blog

Cutting the Cincinnati Streetcar funding only transfers federal money to a lower-ranked road project

...John Kasich and ...(ODOT) are making an ill-informed mistake by reportedly denying federal funds to the Cincinnati Streetcar – ODOT’s highest-ranking proposed transportation project. Cincinnati city officials relayed to local media yesterday that Gov. Kasich would likely not approve state funding for Cincinnati's streetcar project due to “shortfalls in state funds.”

....the funds in question are not state funds – they are federal pass-through funds, most likely Federal Highway Administration dollars such as Surface Transportation Program (STP) and Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds administered by ODOT. Under federal law, these funds must pay for transportation projects or transportation programs only. They cannot be used for education, health care, prisons or other programs unrelated to transportation.

.... “The streetcar funding has nothing to do with the state's deficit. If it is not used for the streetcar, it will go to a lower-ranked Ohio road project or it will go to another state’s transportation project.”

Funding applications to ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) are ranked using a scoring process by whether a project will achieve a more balanced and integrated multi-modal transportation system, embrace environmental stewardship, promote community economic growth and development, and leverage state transportation investment. These goals are aligned with federal transportation investment programs.

All Aboard Ohio and the Ohio Environmental Council believe that a project may not be denied these funds if the project has met all existing scoring criteria established by and if there are sufficient federal funds available.

Ohio receives about $50 million in federal CMAQ funds each year and many times more in STP funds. The streetcar is seeking $36.8 million in new federal funding.

The first phase of the $129.8 million Cincinnati streetcar earned the highest score (84) of any transportation project, existing or new, anywhere in Ohio being considered by the TRAC (100 is the highest possible score). The second phase, extending the streetcar to the Uptown area for $58.6 million, achieved a very high score of 71.5. The streetcar will be powered by electricity – a clean, affordable and domestically produced energy source.

“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,” said Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council.

By comparison, Ohio’s half of the $2 billion Brent Spence Bridge achieved a TRAC score of only 44. And the three components of the $632.2 million project to convert State Route 32 into an expressway in Greater Cincinnati's Eastern Corridor achieved scores of only 34, 39 and 48 (SOURCE).

“The Brent Spence Bridge and State Route 32 are costly, taxpayer-funded projects that will not create more long-term job growth for the region than the streetcar,” Prendergast noted. “In the case of Route 32, it will use taxpayer money only to disperse existing jobs and residents farther out, while weakening the city of Cincinnati's tax base, increasing our dependence on cars and foreign oil and making the region's traffic and pollution worse, not better.”

Two studies estimate that the streetcar will stimulate new Downtown/Over-The-Rhine development worth $1.5 billion, or roughly 15 times the cost of the streetcar.

...TRAC last December recommended awarding $36.8 million of ODOT’s share of federal funds to two phases of the streetcar project. The first phase is slated to receive $35 million of the state’s allocation of federal funding in 2012, on top of $15 million already awarded for 2011. The Uptown phase was recommended to receive $1.8 million.
More Info Here

How Wray sees Ohio, covered in asphalt:

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