Before pitching a very ambitious, if not crazy idea, Richard Rogovin's wife gave him some advice: "Be prepared to catch them."
"What do you mean?" the Columbus lawyer asked.
"When they fall out of their chairs laughing," she replied.
Rogovin still went to that meeting and shared his idea that Ohio should build a 45-mile bridge to Ontario across a shallow portion of Lake Erie. He says it could provide commercial traffic a faster and cheaper route to Canada than is currently offered by the Peace Bridge in Buffalo and Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. "The key to economic growth in Ohio is commercial transportation," Rogovin says.
The men with whom he was meeting, The Ohio State University's dean of engineering and the head of the nonprofit Edison Welding Institute, didn't laugh when they heard Rogovin's proposal; they got excited.
The idea might not be as far-fetched as you think. Rogovin, who specializes in international business law and is also chairman of his family's business, U.S. Bridge, says his experiences lead him to believe it's possible to construct a span similar to the 24-mile-long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana. He estimates such a bridge would cost less than $5 billion and would certainly be cheaper than the high-speed rail system currently being discussed for Ohio — what he calls the "train to nowhere."
To get the bridge plan moving, the Ohio State dean put Rogovin in touch with Peter Rogers, director of the college of engineering's Ohio Innovation Initiative, which uses students to solve industrial problems. Twenty students started structural and environmental research this spring, and a full report should be ready by fall 2011. Rogers notes that the state of Ohio is paying $25 million for its high-speed rail study.