GOP governors-to-be spurn railroad funds

December 12, 2010

By Joan Lowy and Kevin Freking-Associated Press

The Obama administration is taking $1.2 billion in high-speed rail money away from Ohio and Wisconsin and awarding it to 12 other states, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday.

Both Ohio and Wisconsin have elected incoming Republican governors who oppose the rail projects. Those governors, whose states have been hit hard by the economic downturn, had asked if they could divert the money to other projects.

But Mr. LaHood said he was awarding the money to states that are eager to have it for their rail projects.

“High-speed trains will not only improve transportation, but reinvigorate manufacturing and put people back to work in jobs that pay well,” Mr. LaHood said 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, Vermont and Indiana.

A commuter-rail line in Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Chicago will still get about $2 million, despite new Republican Gov.-elect Scott Walker‘s opposition to the high-speed rail project.

In Ohio, Gov.-elect John R. Kasich had declared dead a project that would have created passenger-train service connecting Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. He had requested that Mr. LaHood allow him to use the $400 million in federal funds on other transportation projects, such as road construction or freight lines.

The economic-recovery law that authorized funding for high-speed rail projects stipulated that the funds can’t be used for other purposes, however.

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