Thursday, November 18, 2010

High Speed Fallout

There’s been a ton of talk about the changes in the political winds and how it’s going to affect transportation Western Pennsylvania.  Those winds have also been felt on the national level.  The shift to the right in other states has brought some potentially huge impacts to Obama’s national HSR plan and will impact the Pittsburgh region.

There’s a really interesting battle going on in Wisconsin right now.  The Governor-elect has pledged to end the HSR project and has asked the DOT to allow the state to re-appropriate the funds.  Additionally, TALGO had set up a manufacturing plant to build HSR equipment for Wisconsin and other states.  It appears that they stand to lose the manufacturer and the money ($810 million) if the governor follows through with his plans.  

Of a more immediate impact to the Pittsburgh region is the election of a new Governor in Ohio, John Kasich.  Part of his platform from the start was to kill the 3C Corridor.  He has pledged to keep this promise and end the project.  This is a much bigger blow to Western Pennsylvania than other HSR developments, as the next step after completion of the primary corridor was a connection from Pittsburgh to both Cleveland and to Columbus, creating a triangle of passenger service in Ohio.  For the last few years, Ohio has seemed more intent on getting better rail service to Pittsburgh than Pennsylvania was, and now that seems to have flown out the window as well.  As with Wisconsin, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has vowed to take back all funding given to Ohio, to the tune of $400 million and put it back in the national HSR pot. 

This is immediately bad for Western Pennsylvania.  Our local transit system appears to be taking a huge nosedive, and it looks like our regional connections will remain status quo, at best for the foreseeable future.  Pennsylvania’s HSR grant this summer in relation to Pittsburgh was miniscule ($800K) and was only to do some very preliminary studies on the NS’s route from Harrisburg west to Pittsburgh. 

With our emerging ally to the west seemingly switching sides, and a further shift in our state government to the right (a traditionally un-friendly group towards transportation other than the automobile) it’s not looking good for the home team. 

Our one bright spot, at this point, is that the money appears to be going back into the pot.  It will take time to re-receive applications for appropriations and to go through the approval process.  While Pennsylvania does not have any “shovel ready” projects, perhaps we can use this bought time to advance our cause. 

Knowing our state government, I’m not holding my breath, but it’s a chance.  

1 comment:

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