Tuesday, July 1, 2008

OH-14 Candidates call for Commuter Rail

Both candidates in this year's election are pro-rail and pro-transit. Steve LaTourette (R) voted for the Amtrak H.R. 6003 that passed earlier this month. His opponent, Bill O'Neill in November's election is charging full steam ahead trying to push LaTourette on his stance on mass transit in the Eastern Suburbs of Cleveland that OH-14 serves. Bill O'Neill had this to say about commuter rail in the Eastern Suburbs:

Good Morning. I would like to thank everyone who is in attendance this morning, particularly some of my friends and elected officials, labor leaders and business leaders from throughout Northeast Ohio. (Name two or three) I have convened this event in front of this wonderful old abandoned rail station for the purpose of celebrating our past and announcing my vision for our future in mass transit in Northeast Ohio. For the reality is that they are tied together. We used to have rail transit to this very site.

As a candidate for the Congress of the United States, I have learned that voters want their elected officials to provide a vision for the future and programs that bring that vision into reality. But more importantly, they demand that our leaders actually lead in times of uncertainty. And to that end, it is essential today that I speak with clarity.

Working men and women in Northeast Ohio are caught in the crossroads of diminishing job opportunities and ever increasing difficulty in getting to the jobs that they can find. It is not uncommon for a working person to spend a full QUARTER of what they earn to get to work and that is simply not acceptable. With gasoline at $4.00 a gallon and climbing it has just become economically impractical to spend two hours a day on a congested freeway to get to your job.

The primary role of government is not to create jobs, but to foster an atmosphere where American companies have the incentive and opportunity to grow -- and employ more Americans. In 1950, that meant freeways, as President Eisenhower unveiled his playbook in 1954 to pave the way to job and the suburbs. That playbook no longer works, yet seemingly our leaders in Washington seem to be too narrowly focused on progress through pouring more concrete. It's time to compliment our highways with high-speed commuter rail.

Some seven years ago in 2001 NOACA completed a feasibility study which clearly demonstrated that a commuter rail line along the North Shore was not only feasible, but an economically good idea as well. It is estimated that the "Lake Shore Line" could take a full 7,000 cars off the road daily. We stand here today in front of the abandoned rail station in Willoughby, which significantly I note has been moved...and we stand directly between two rail lines which literally used to link Lake county to downtown Cleveland. They are active lines with excess capacity. There is no reason for this region to be without rail service to University Circle, downtown Cleveland, and Cleveland Hopkins airport. No reason at all.

Today I challenge everyone in attendance to answer a simple question. What is stopping us today? Why does the Red Line of the RTA start at Public Square and stop in East Cleveland and not Mentor and beyond? Why does the Blue Line of the RTA start at Public Square and stop at Warrensville Heights, and not Solon and beyond to Hudson?

The answer is simple. Commuter rail and its more popular sibling light rail have never had a champion from Northeast Ohio in Congress. That has to change, and I am that person. And so I pledge to you all assembled here today...send Bill O'Neill to Congress and I will take the NOACA feasibility study off the shelf...I will dust it off...and together we will DEMAND THAT IT BE IMPLEMENTED.

Much talk has surfaced recently about high speed rail and the Tri-C corridor and I also want to speak clearly about that subject. There are limited federal dollars available, and I believe it is essential that before we spend billions on a dream system that would, even under the most optimistic scenario, not be up and running for a decade, we should first spend money on an existing system that will have a real and immediate impact on jobs in Northeast Ohio.

The time for commuter rail is here. It is a jobs issue, it's a growth issue, it's an environmental issue. Let's get to work!

Thank you and I will now answer any questions you may have.
It will be interesting how LaTourette will respond to this call to action by O'Neill. LaTourette's latest polling shows him with a 10%+ lead over O'Neill but the election has just started. The east side of Cleveland has definitely faced more economic troubles then Cleveland's west side. Parts of Trumbull and Ashtabula Counties which are also in the district have suffered some of the worst economic situtations in the country. O'Neill is on the right track to changing OH-14 back to a Democratic seat, but it will take a lot more to get this district to switch from a semi-popular incumbent.