New GOP Governors Want To Spend High-Speed Rail Funds On Roads

November 9, 2010
Driver follows GPS and ends up on train tracks

Driver follows GPS and ends up on train tracks

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has rejected a request from two recently elected GOP governors-to-be asking to cancel light-rail projects in the works and funnel the money elsewhere.

Ohio governor-elect John Kasich wants to use $400 in federal funds pledged to a Cleveland-to-Cincinnati high-speed passenger-rail project for road construction or freight lines instead.

Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker had already tried the same—with the same denial from LaHood—wanting to cancel an $810 million Madison-to-Milwaukee rail line in favor of more roadbuilding.

In both cases, the governors had decided that the projects weren't viable in this economy, as they rely on significant state funds in addition to those from the federal government.

Walker said he wanted to use the funds for state roads and bridges that he described as "literally crumbling."

That likely won't be possible, though—and it's not just a case of LaHood being difficult. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $8 billion toward high-speed rail and doesn't allow the funds to be spent for any other reason, according to the AP, citing the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

In his Fastlane blog, LaHood argues that high-speed rail will be a job-creation engine, putting skilled Rust Belt workers to work. Project advocates also argue that it means better connectivity between airports and, likely a safer alternative to the Interstate.

What do you think? Are major high-speed rail projects along clogged Interstate corridors worthwhile, or should we just keep adding lanes because it's cheaper?

[Associated Press, via Yahoo]

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