Feds pull high-speed rail funds from Wisconsin, Ohio
December 9th, 2010
06:50 PM ET
11 years ago

Feds pull high-speed rail funds from Wisconsin, Ohio

(CNN) - The Obama administration is pulling back $1.2 billion in funding for high-speed rail projects in Ohio and Wisconsin after the governors-elect in both states vowed to kill the proposed train lines.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he would re-direct the funds to other states, with California set to receive the largest sum.

The Golden State will get another $624 million for a high-speed rail project that will ultimately link Los Angeles and San Francisco, while Florida will receive $342 million for an Orlando-to-Tampa line. That's on top of the funds already dedicated to the high speed rail projects in those states.

Another $162 million will go to a project in Washington state, with the remaining funds divided up among 10 more states, the Transportation Department announced.

The incoming governors in Ohio and Wisconsin, both Republicans, had promised to kill high-speed rail projects in their states during their campaigns. Scott Walker, Wisconsin's governor-elect, had expressed hope that the $810 million in federal funds for a passenger rail link between Madison and Milwaukee could be shifted to other projects.

"When push came to shove, we were willing to invest in other things, including freight rail upgrades - but not a new line between Milwaukee and Madison that we don't want and can't afford in this state," Walker told CNN.

LaHood said the funds were dedicated specifically to high-speed rail and could not be used for anything else. But Walker said he hopes the new Congress will re-examine that requirement and "start looking at the real transportation needs in this country."

"We've got crumbling roads and bridges in Wisconsin and all across America," Walker said. "We really need to be fixing those before spending billions of dollars on a train line that may work in selected parts of the country, but really in the Midwest and other core places of the country is not really suited for the kind if investment they're looking for for the taxpayers."

The Wisconsin project was to be part of an eventual line linking Minneapolis and Chicago. But Walker campaigned on a promise to kill the line, arguing the state would have been responsible for an annual operating cost of $7.5 million that Wisconsin doesn't have.

A similar argument was made in Ohio, where the Transportation Department withdrew $400 million for the construction of a passenger line that would have linked Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Ohio's governor-elect, Republican John Kasich, campaigned on a pledge to kill the planned line – a promise critics called shortsighted.

Investments in passenger rail lines in the United States and around the world, especially high-speed rail, result in long-term economic growth, said Petra Torodovich of the Regional Plan Association, a transportation think tank and advocacy group in New York.

"It does beg to question what is the long-term economic strategy for the state of Wisconsin, and how will he grow the economy and create jobs," Torodovich said.

Currently, Amtrak's Hiawatha service between Milwaukee and Chicago is the most-used rail line in the Midwest. Proponents of high-speed rail had hoped to build on that demand, but Walker questioned both the demand for seats and the projected economic benefits.

"I just don't think the projections as to the uses of that are anywhere in the realm of reality," he said.

But outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat,called Thursday's decision "a tragic moment" for the state.

“Our team worked hard to win a national competition to make us a leader in high speed passenger rail,” Doyle said. “We were positioned to be not only a center of the line, but to be a manufacturing center as well. Now we are moving from being the leader, to the back of the line.”

Filed under: California • Ohio • Ray LaHood • Wisconsin
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Bill R in Oakland

    Good, we'll take the money here in California. The U.S. is in the backwater compared to the rest of the world when it comes to high-speed passenger rail

    December 9, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  2. bob

    Sounds like Wisconsin elected and idiot for governor just like us here in Ohio. Good luck.

    December 9, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  3. GOP = Greed Over People

    So, "taking back OUR country" means taking it back to the Stone Age?

    You neo-con governors keep cancelling those high speed rail funds, there are many other states happy to get the funds and use them for the purpose intended.

    After all Japan or China already has a train that will do 300/hr, so, how much more behind the curve do you two want to put transportation in America?

    December 9, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  4. Thank God I am a Democrat

    Our buddies in China are way ahead of us on this and many other things. I guess we will just keep giving themm money so they can advance themselves.

    December 9, 2010 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  5. paul

    ah yes progress, what a difficult thing to envision

    December 9, 2010 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  6. Chipster

    Typical, much like Sarah Palin who claimed she said "No thanks" to the bridge to nowhere but she kept the earmarks just the same. Well, not this time! If Walker and Kasich had hopes of balancing their budgets with the funds from the high-speed rail funds, they will surely fall short of meeting their goals. Republicans promised to "Cut spending..." well, guys, you'd better start thinking about where you're going to cut services in Wisconsin and Ohio.

    December 9, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  7. Four and The Door

    Much more of this and I'm going to have to get an Obama/ Biden bumper sticker.

    Does Ohio Senator Brown get to rescind his vote for ObamaCare when they take away his fast train?!?!

    December 9, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  8. Tuco Ramirez

    Wow. Thank you, Ohio and Wisconsin. This is the project I've wanted my whole life. Vegas and the Bay area in 2 hours!! Woo hoo!

    December 9, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  9. GL

    Republicans are anti-Science and care nothing about this country

    December 9, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  10. chris

    as someone who lives in CA, I would like to say thank you to the Gov's and if there are other Fed funds you wish to release please do so. I promise to thank you again.

    December 9, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  11. John Boehner is the dumbest person to become speaker

    Walker eliminated thousands of construction and Wisconsin factory jobs because he wanted to created jobs in his state? And this is because the state would eventually have to spend $7 million for upkeep. You know, when the republicans get the price of gasoline over $4 a gallon, the train is going to look pretty good. Walker and Johnson are what you get when democrats stay home from the polls.

    December 9, 2010 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  12. Name king

    These stupid repugs are against modernizing our country. Every one else is embarked upon bringing their country in the 21st century, and here the greatest country in the world, people are satisfied the way it is, while others progress and leave us in the sand.

    December 9, 2010 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  13. GrogInOhio

    I'm left wondering how many jobs each governor-elect just killed.

    December 9, 2010 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  14. jodipo

    so sad to see this. I was really hoping to see it completed and looked forward to the day I cold take the rail from Minneapolis to Chicago. Typical republicans though, take away jobs for those that need em, but make sure taxes for the rich are lower than for the middle class.

    December 9, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  15. ML1029

    We are screwed...time to move out of Wisconsin. There has been no improvement here and doesn't seem like there will be any. We have a governor who doesn't care about our economy or children's future. I hate my state. Will someone please hire me...I need to move.

    December 9, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  16. Dwight Penn

    Never even considered NOT spending it, eh?

    December 9, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  17. Gil

    Thanks to the ignorant voters of our state and Walkers anit-progress stand as governor we will fall behind the rest of the US and the world. Thank you Mr. Ignorant Scott!

    December 9, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  18. Tom

    Good. At least that will delay the inevitable FEMA concentration camp trains of the fascist Republican new world order.
    See for yourselves on Youtube. You will have no one to blame but yourselves if you keep voting for the destruction of our

    December 9, 2010 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  19. bj

    Isn't it wonderful that our Gov elect is already governing and the feds are listening. This is powerful and a lot more than Doyle did when he was actually in office.

    December 9, 2010 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  20. T'sah from Virginia

    "Congress will re-examine that requirement and "start looking at the real transportation needs in this country."

    The REAL transportation needs is to CATCH UP with other countries that already have "high speed rail"!!! NO, you cannot have the money and while the rest of the country MOVE TOWARDS moving FORWARD, your states will be left behind!!!

    The reason why the RepubliCAN'Ts will REJECT everything that will better America is because it's coming from President Obama!! If it was BUSH, there will be NO PROBLEM.

    I remember back in the days when African Americans were NOT allowed to be FIREMEN!!! The ONLY reason behind that was firemen were considered HEROES!!!

    December 9, 2010 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  21. The Math Prophet

    As a resident of Mpls who would like to see a high-speed line to Chicago this is a sad moment. Short sighted Wisconsin.

    December 9, 2010 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |