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Monday, May 9, 2011

Wisconsin shut out of federal train money

From an article by Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Wisconsin was shut out Monday in its bid for $150 million in federal money to upgrade the Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that 22 projects in 15 states would share $2 billion in federal high-speed rail money that had been rejected by Florida.

Wisconsin was seeking some of that money for train sets, locomotives and a maintenance base for the Hiawatha line. But while LaHood's announcement listed $268.2 million for five other Midwestern states that had joined Wisconsin in the application, it made no mention of the Badger State.

Officials at the state and federal transportation departments confirmed that no money would be awarded to Wisconsin. The federal agency had previously yanked an $810 million grant to this state after newly elected Gov. Scott Walker refused to use it to extend the Hiawatha from Milwaukee to Madison, a 110-mph stretch that would have been part of a larger plan to connect Chicago to the Twin Cities and other Midwestern destinations with fast, frequent trains.

In a telephone news conference, LaHood did not directly answer a question about whether Monday's decision was related to Walker's previous stand, which reversed 20 years of planning by predecessor administrations of both parties. But he repeatedly used the word "reliable" in characterizing the leadership of the states that were selected for the latest round of grants.

"The announcements we're making today are with the strongest partners in America," LaHood told reporters. "These are reliable people. These are people (who) have as one of their highest priorities the development of high-speed rail."

Walker is a Republican, as are the newly elected Florida and Ohio governors who also rejected federally funded rail projects. LaHood is a former GOP congressman serving in Democratic President Barack Obama's administration. But several of the states that won high-speed rail grants Monday are led by Republican governors, including Indiana, where Walker has cited Gov. Mitch Daniels as a role model.

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