New Routes for High Speed Rail Funds

Midwest
Thursday, December 9, 2010
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It’s hard to imagine turning down $1.2 billion. That is, unless you’re the governors-elect of Wisconsin and Ohio. The New York Times reported today that those two states officially withdrew claim to their shares of federal stimulus money awarded for construction of new rail corridors, citing concerns over subsidies needed to run the trains. Instead the money will be redirected to 13 other states. Ironically, both Wisconsin and Ohio had lobbied aggressively for big hunks of the $8 billion set aside for high-speed rail development in Obama’s stimulus package. Things changed when Republicans won both governorships, partly on the platform of denying the stimulus awards.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Wisconsin would have received $810 million for a brand new rail corridor between Milwaukee and Madison and Ohio $385 for the new “3C” corridor between Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. While neither project was intended to be high-speed, they were viewed as significant steps towards creating an efficient rail-network across the country, with the eventual goal of upgrading to high-speed. As an added bonus the projects would have generated thousands of jobs in an economic downturn.

Initially, the new Republican Governors tried to redirect the money toward road projects, a move DOT rejected. Luckily for the rest of the country, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the money would be redistributed for rail projects 13 other states. California and Florida will be the biggest winners with $624 million and $342 million respectively. Illionis will get $42.3 million. You can see the official breakdown at the DOT website.

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