Illinois to get Ohio, Wisconsin high-speed rail money

December 9, 2010

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Illinois is set to get millions of dollars for high-speed rail projects that were supposed to go to two other states.

But that news may not be as good as it sounds.

Ohio and Wisconsin were allotted nearly $1.195 billion in federal stimulus money for high-speed rail projects. But the newly-elected Republican governors of those states had promised to use the money elsewhere, despite warnings from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the funding had to be used speficially for those projects.

John Kasich, of Ohio, and Scott Walker, of Wisconsin said, instead, they planned to spend the money on road repair, road construction and working on freight lines.

That prompted Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last monthy 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.

The federal government made good on its threat to Thursday, when it redistributed the money to 14 other states. That'll mean more than $42 million for train projects in Illinois.

Rick Harnish, who heads the Chicago-based Midwest High Speed Rail Association, said the news doesn't bode well for his visions of a multi-state, inter-city high-speed rail network.

"For our state, it's good. But for our economy, it's bad," Harnish said.