Ohio’s and Wisconsin’s loss will be 13 other states’ gain.
U.S. Department of Transportation announced this afternoon that nearly $1.2 billion in passenger rail money will be withdrawn from the states of Ohio and Wisconsin at the behest of their incoming governors. The money will be transferred to other states to support “high speed rail projects already underway.”
California, Florida and Washington State come away as the big winners, receiving up to $624 million, $342 million and $161 million respectively. Those funds will help advance plans to connect San Francisco to San Diego, Tampa to Orlando and Portland to Seattle.
Each of the recipients were granted less money than they originally applied for in their HSR application, according to Justin Nisly, a spokesman for DOT. The additional funding will allow these states to further their plans.
“I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
Even Wisconsin will receive $2 million to improve its Hiawatha Amtrak line from Chicago to Milwaukee.
Here is the way the money will be distributed in more detail:
- California: up to $624 million
- Florida: up to $342.3 million
- Washington State: up to $161.5 million
- Illinois: up to $42.3 million
- New York: up to $7.3 million
- Maine: up to $3.3 million
- Massachusetts: up to $2.8 million
- Vermont: up to $2.7 million
- Missouri up to $2.2 million
- Wisconsin: up to $2 million for the Hiawatha line
- Oregon: up to $1.6 million
- North Carolina: up to $1.5 million
- Iowa: up to $309,080
- Indiana: up to $364,980
USDOT said they will review the contracts to determine whether Ohio and Wisconsin will be forced to reimburse the federal government for any portion of the money already spent. Funding was pulled after Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker and Ohio governor-elect John Kasich each indicated an intent to halt passenger rail projects underway in their states when they take office next month.
A total of $8 billion was distributed around the country to promote high speed rail as part of the President’s Economic Stimulus bill last year.
Rail advocates in Wisconsin had been protesting Walker’s plans to kill the project and forfeit a $810 million federal grant to connect Milwaukee to Madison. Rail proponents were hopeful recently that at least some of the money could be salvaged to support passenger rail in a different form.
Meanwhile, in Ohio, Governor-Elect Kasich had written President Obama requesting permission to reallocate Ohio’s $400 million grant to highway and freight rail projects. LaHood responded that the money could be used only for passenger rail.
Just this week, Ohio’s current Governor, Ted Strickland, wrote a letter to Kasich, urging him to reconsider his position. Rail proponents in Ohio had been circulating a petition to present to Kasich when he takes office.
Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association, said the loss of funds in Ohio and Wisconsin is a big blow to the region.
“It’s a very sad day for the Midwest economy,” he said. “We really need to build stronger links between our cities.”