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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Wisconsin congressmen introduce legislation to use HSR funds for deficit reduction; California senators say they want Wisconsin's HSR money


The drama surrounding Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker’s wish to return $810 million in high-speed rail.

On Nov. 16, Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.) introduced legislation that would enable states to return high-speed and intercity passenger-rail funds awarded under the stimulus bill to the federal government, which then could use the dollars to reduce the federal budget deficit.

“Instead of being told by bureaucrats in Washington how to allocate their resources, states need to have the flexibility and authority to prioritize how tax dollars are being spent,” the congressmen said in a prepared statement. “However, the Obama Administration’s stimulus package does not allow these stimulus funds to be reprogrammed for other worthwhile transportation projects.”

Meanwhile, several other states are lobbying to receive Wisconsin’s share of the funds. New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn both have said they’ll gladly take the money. And on Nov. 16, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to transfer unwanted federal high-speed rail dollars to their state. Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich also has vowed to return his state’s $400 million allocation to the USDOT.

“It has come to our attention that several states plan to cancel their high-speed rail projects. We ask that you withdraw the federal grants to these states and award the funds to states that have made a strong financial commitment to these very important infrastructure projects,” Feinstein and Boxer said in the letter. “California voters have committed over $9 billion in bonds to high-speed rail, putting our state in a unique position to advance this initiative quickly. Our state’s plan has widespread, bipartisan support … No other state is as ready, as able or as determined to develop a high-speed rail system in the near future.”

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More News from 11/17/2010