Ohio: The Hub of It All

Chad W. Lutz
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2008 was one of the most radically significant years in our country’s young history. From Obama’s triumph over Palin and Co., to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan lingering on past the five-year marker, it was a year to remember (as most of them tend to be [for whatever it’s worth]). However, as economic turmoil and moms of fourteen fueled headlines, one of the most looming problems Americans faced was at the pump. With oil prices on the rise and the dollar showing signs of extreme vulnerability, America began to genuinely worry about its ability to sustain itself both financially and ecologically for future generations to come. Scientists prodding the Arctic Circle began finding carbon emissions off the charts in our polar ice caps and all signs seemed to point pretty convincing fingers in the direction of the Theory of Global Warming. The word “hybrid” soon became as commonplace as the seriously annoying catch phrase “legit,” and with “The Green” (the other) already at the center of so many worried attentions, a huge “Green Movement” began to take shape.

The movement, dubbed “New Environmentalism,” currently has some of our country’s top researchers tenaciously looking into more ecologically friendly technologies. From Green Energy solutions to cleaner, more fuel-efficient modes of transportation, America is seeing advancement in the “green” scene on a widespread scale like never before.

It’s happening at both the local and national level. Agencies and communities alike are pooling resources to come up with the best solutions to help keep America seeing green. According to the EPA, things are getting better. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in the latter part of 2009, has generated almost $220 billion towards interior refurbishing projects. Among these projects are environmentally conscious efforts to try and improve renewable energy capabilities and overall energy efficiency like high-speed rail systems and fresh water wind farms.

Here in Ohio, steps have been taken to improve our infrastructure to ensure that we stay as competitive as possible with the rest of the metropolitan world. Back in May, Incumbent Ohio Governor Ted Strickland announced plans to have five offshore fresh water wind turbines installed off the coast of Cleveland by the end of 2012. If the plan goes according, it will be the first offshore wind farm operating in the U.S. Energy giant General Electric and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo.) have partnered to make the plans a reality, and have already invested nearly $2 million determining the feasibility of Ohio’s coastline for the project.

Another one of Ohio’s leading projects at the forefront of canonization is the 2008 introduction of a high-speed, cross-state railway system called the Ohio Hub. “The Hub,” which will run on diesel, is expected to not only provide cleaner methods of mass transportation for Ohioans, but would also create hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs. The 258-mile railway is set to start operation in 2012. But not everyone is “all aboard” for the idea.
Image from (1/28/2010)
The high-speed intercity passenger rail program would include a route that connects four of Ohio’s major metropolitan areas: Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. The proposed route, called the “3C Corridor” is home to over forty colleges and universities, as well as the headquarters of twenty-two Fortune 500 companies. In a state that, by the end of 2012, will be home to the first and only fresh water wind farm in the United States and will be one of the leading states in terms of green technology, one would think there would be more support for the proposed railway.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director, Jolene M. Molitoris, who is the first female appointee in ODOT history, has been an advocate of the rail system since the very beginning. Appointed director in January of 2009, Molitoris has been committed to meeting Ohio’s 21st century transportation needs. “Each day, we are working to make ODOT a more environmentally-conscious department and a green leader in the nation,” she said in a June interview with the Eco-Watch journal. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has made almost $800 billion available to states in the form of grants for things like research into greener technologies and safer, more efficient means of public transportation. In January, the Federal Railroad Administration (FTA), under the American Recovery Act, awarded Ohio $400,000,000 in funds to go ahead with the Ohio Hub project. But the looming November election threatens to “derail” the entire plan.

Back in August, in an interview with Colleen Marshall of NBC 4, Columbus, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich told the reporter that he would stop the 3C Corridor project in its tracks if elected, calling it, “one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.” Knowing how big bats like to swing away, I felt compelled to check out the ODOT website to weigh in on whether or not the idea would truly be “the dumbest” I’ve ever heard. Not so much.
According to the project’s home website, the high-speed rail system has more points of interest than the Grand Canyon. Once completed (Ohio 3C Rail Benefits), the “dumb” 79mph passenger service railway will be, “in reach of more than 60% of Ohio’s population,” with, “nearly 6 million Ohioans living within 15 miles of the 3C Corridor.” But aside from the peace and love and mushy harmony of all-Ohio being connected and as one, there’s a lot more at stake here.

Ohio is in the midst of one of its greatest economic crises it has ever encountered since officially becoming a state in 1803. An article published back in March on a website called Third Base Politics posits Ohio’s deficit at nearly $8 billion. Unemployment has reached epic and historic proportions, and many staple industries have packed up and moved over seas. Jobs are at an all-time scarcity and we’re losing thousands more by the month. I’m watching CBS right now, and a commercial for John Kasich just came across the screen spouting “truth” in the form of current incumbent Ted Strickland’s apparent reckless spending agenda and his destructive pile of debt racked up with an unmistakable disregard for generating jobs for Ohioans. The Ohio Hub project boasts 8,000 potential jobs, with over 225 construction jobs made available over the course of a two-year period. ODOT anticipates the rail system will create a potential $1.2 billion contribution to Ohio’s economy. Sounds like jobs are in mind to me.

“But what about the environmental impact?” some of you might be asking. Well, ODOT was courteous enough to include statistics on such matters that predict the project will result in almost 320,000 less Vehicle Miles Traveled a day. That means 320,000 less miles on your car, of hydrocarbon emissions poisoning the atmosphere, all while reducing Ohio’s dependency on oil. Less traffic on the roads means less congestion, easier, safer, and more enjoyable commutes to work, and less road maintenance over time, saving us all (in the long run) tax dollars to go towards other worthy programs (hopefully).

With costly crude still washing up on our Gulf’s shores and the sting of Deepwater Horizon still settling in, many people are still concerned about our heavy reliance on fossil fuels and their effects on the environment. However, another aspect of the Ohio Hub project is the reduction of our state’s dependency on oil. Officials working on the project predict that the inclusion of a high-speed railway into our current transportation system will help eliminate some 15,000 gallons of daily oil consumption by Ohio drivers. As of today, October 28th, Ohio gas prices average almost $3 a gallon (2.827). By today’s standards, if we were to implement the rail system tomorrow, the project would begin saving Ohioans an average of almost $45,000 a day.

If you would like to get more information on the Ohio Hub high-speed rail project, be sure to check out the ODOT website, or find them on Facebook Ohio 3C "Quick Start" Passenger Rail Plan. Or, if you would like more information on Ohio’s gubernatorial candidates, please be sure to check out the following resources: