The Obama administration is taking $1.2 billion in high-speed rail money away from Ohio and Wisconsin and awarding it to other states, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday.
Both Ohio and Wisconsin have elected incoming Republican governors who oppose the rail projects. So LaHood said he is awarding their money to rail projects in states that are eager to have it.
High-speed trains will not only improve transportation but reinvigorate manufacturing and put people back to work in jobs that pay well, LaHood predicted in a statement.
States gaining the most money include California, $624 million; Florida, $342 million; Washington, $161 million; and Illinois, $42 million. Other states receiving lesser amounts include New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, North Carolina, Iowa and Indiana.
A commuter rail line in Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Chicago will still get about $2 million.
In Ohio, Gov.-elect John Kasich had declared dead a project that would have created passenger train service between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. He had requested LaHood allow him to use the $400 million in federal funds on other transportation projects like road construction or freight lines.
The law that authorized funding for high-speed rail projects stipulated that the funds can't be used for other purposes, however.
Kasich has said that the top speed of 79 miles per hour on the proposed Ohio project is too slow and he has questioned whether enough people will ride it.
Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker campaigned against a Madison-to-Milwaukee rail line, which would have received $810 million. Walker, who created a website opposed to the project, has called it a waste of taxpayer money. He wrote to President Barack Obama asking for permission to spend the money on roads and bridges.
Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, called the loss of the rail project "a tragic moment" for his state.
Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., accused Walker of killing jobs in his home state "a month before he's even been sworn into to office."
Without rail between Milwaukee and Madison, it will be difficult for Midwestern leaders to fulfill their vision of having 110-mph trains linking Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis-St. Paul. The route was a key segment of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, an effort by officials in nine states to create a network of fast, frequent trains.
Political leaders in states likely to benefit from the cancellation of the Wisconsin and Ohio projects have been lobbying for a share of the $1.2 billion since Election Day.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said, "No other state is as ready, as able, or as determined to develop a high-speed rail system in the near future."
California is working toward the construction of a high-speed rail system that would eventually extend some 800 miles, linking Sacramento and San Francisco to San Diego. The trains would travel at a speed of up to 220 miles an hour. In lobbying for federal funding, lawmakers from the state note that voters have already approved more than $9 billion in bonds to help finance the project. Construction is expected to begin in late 2012.
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