Durbin angling for other states' high-speed rail money

November 11, 2010

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(WBEZ/Alex Keefe)
Illinois senior U.S. senator says he'll take stimulus dollars slated for Ohio and Wisconsin if those states don't want it.

Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he's angling for stimulus money that's supposed to go to Ohio and Wisconsin.

The federal government says the money must go toward high-speed rail, but the Republican governors-elect in both states have their own ideas.

At issue is more than more than $1.2 billion federal stimulus dollars that are supposed to help build a Midwestern high-speed rail network.

But the two Republican governors-elect - John Kasich, of Ohio, and Scott Walker, of Wisconsin - say, instead, they'll use it for other projects, such as road repair, road construction and working on freight lines.

That prompted Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday to send a letter to both men saying the federal government is plannig to "engage in an orderly transistion to wind down" their involvement with the program if they don't reconsider.

Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in his chamber, said Thursday he'll work to bring it to Illinois.

"If Wisconsin doesn't want it, if Ohio doesn't want it, we have plenty of opportunities here for high-speed rail," Durbin said. "They'll regret it. In the years to come, when we have this infrastructure that's gonna serve us for generations, they'll understand how shortsighted [their decision] was."

Durbin says, if the money's re-allocated, it could help expand Amtrak service.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker says he's exploring legal options to re-direct the money.