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Published: 2/10/2010

Strickland blasts rail critics as 'cheerleaders for failure'

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS - Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland lashed out yesterday at critics of the state's plan to use $400 million in federal stimulus money for a start-up rail service, calling them "cheerleaders for failure."

Mr. Strickland said he's tired of people who attack every idea that comes along and always look for something negative to say.

"We need cheerleaders for Ohio, not cheerleaders for failure," said Mr. Strickland, a Democrat running for re-election. "I'm getting a little frustrated that every time an idea comes along we devote ourselves to finding all the reasons why we shouldn't do it or it won't work."

The governor said that attitude is not the way to move Ohio forward.

In a coincidence that seemed to prove part of Mr. Strickland's point, Republican Sen. Mark Wagoner of Ottawa Hills sent a weather-related tweet around the same time that took a shot at the rail plan.

"With this snow and the roads, I should've ridden a dog sled to Columbus. Even that would be faster than Strickland's train," Mr. Wagoner said in his tweet.

The governor said the plan will create at least 8,000 jobs and is a first step toward building a passenger rail infrastructure.

Some Republicans have questioned the plan, and newspapers have been full of letters to the editor on the topic, some supportive, some critical.

Ohio's train project calls for a 79-mph start-up service connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati.

The goal is to lay the foundation for a higher-speed system that eventually would branch off to the Midwest and East Coast.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tom Patton said Mr. Strickland is underestimating the cost of building a passenger rail network, which could be as much as $800 million and far slower than the 79-mph estimates.

He said the state should spend money instead on existing bus and light-rail systems that serve millions of Ohio riders a year.

"I'm a cheerleader for not wasting taxpayers' money," said Mr. Patton, a Republican from Strongsville, a Cleveland suburb.

Although Ohio would not use any state funds to develop the project, the state must come up with $17 million annually to operate the service.

Amtrak released a study in September predicting that a restored service in Ohio would draw 478,000 riders in its first year and said the state has the demographics for successful operations, including population density and a concentration of colleges and universities.



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