The Dispatch article below discusses some of the funding questions for COTA’s newest light rail proposal. It mentions a new type of rail vehicle that’s cheaper and lighter than light rail vehicles, but bigger than a streetcar, and there is also a great time-line of light rail history in Columbus.
Light rail runs on a whole lot of cash, advocates warn
Requested federal money would cover a fraction of the proposed railway
Saturday, January 10, 2009 3:07 AM
By Debbie Gebolys
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Reignited plans for light-rail transportation are sketchy right now, but at least one thing is certain: Everyone in the region likely will be buying a ticket to ride.
Central Ohio Transit Authority President William Lhota and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman are hoping that President-elect Barack Obama’s economic-stimulus plans will deliver a $200 million shot in the arm to regional rail plans that have suffered a series of stops and starts spanning several decades.
But even if the stimulus money comes through, local and state money must follow. The state’s budget is drowning in red ink, and Gov. Ted Strickland flatly opposes any tax increase. Local voters likely would have to chip in with higher sales tax at some point to make rail possible.
The last time COTA talked about building a rail line was in 2006. It was called the North Corridor and was to run from Downtown to the Polaris area, with a cost estimate of about $640 million. The Ohio Department of Transportation pledged to pay a fourth of that and 50 percent was to come from the federal government.
Officials are hoping Obama jump-starts work on a nearly identical 13-mile route.
But ODOT’s cupboard is now bare, and inflation hasn’t been kind to transportation projects. So how much will it cost and who will pay for it?
Lhota said the 2006 estimate is no longer relevant. A team of COTA executives working to revive rail plans says part of the new plan could be cheaper.
A hybrid streetcar/light-rail car that COTA officials just learned about would cost less than light-rail vehicles and would weigh less, too. That means they’d require less time and money for rail foundations than light-rail cars do and go faster and carry more riders than streetcars do.
But COTA’s just begun to explore the possibilities. Four COTA executives have worked part time on rail ideas over the past four to six weeks. The transit authority won’t assign a full-time team to rail unless Obama’s stimulus money comes through, perhaps as soon as next month.
With so little detailed information, “it would be imprudent to arrive at some ultimate cost,” Lhota said. But the specter of where local money would come from looms anyway.
“We will ultimately have to come up with the local resource,” Lhota said.
A statewide task force recommended to Strickland this week a 13-cent increase in state gasoline taxes to pay for transit projects. But the governor won’t raise any tax, Strickland’s spokesman Keith Dailey said yesterday.