In Ohio, 'shovel-ready' means 'pencil ready'

When President Obama referred to shovel-ready projects to be funded by the latest stimulus plan, I thought he meant it literally -- pushing dirt, pouring concrete, laying pipe.

Apparently the Ohio Department of Transportation sees it differently, as it plans to use $57 million to do studies of projects that won't be ready to break ground for years. In the process, the department has turned down other construction projects that were ready to go.

Critics are already complaining that Ohio's 3-Cs (Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus) are receiving a lion's share of these funds, so guess where the projects to be planned are? A highway/rail line in east Cincinnati. A connector to link the interstate to Cleveland's art and museum district. Both carry $20 million price tags.

Another $7 million will be used to further the 3C high-speed rail pipe dream, a train to connect cities that few people care to travel between without having the convenience of a car when they arrive. The Lake Erie & Ohio Regional Rail/Ohio Hub is part of the envisioned $7.7 billion dollar Midwest Regional Rail System through huge swaths of lightly populated country full of people who have proven over and over that they don't care for mass transit.

When Obama said shovel-ready, I believe he was talking about providing jobs to five $40,000-a-year road workers jobs, not one $200K engineer. And those whose shovel-ready bridge and road projects were not funded probably feel the same way.

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