Cuomo: I'll Take Transit Money Other New Governors Are Giving Up

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In one of his first actions as New York's governor-elect, Andrew Cuomo is looking to bring home more money for high-speed rail projects around the state.

Cuomo's Republican counterparts in Wisconsin and Ohio are saying they will put a stop to rail plans in their states due to cost concerns. That means they would have to give up -- or give back -- $1.26 billion in federal stimulus and grant money, and Cuomo wants that money for New York.

He sent a personal letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, asking for any funds, arguing high speed rail connecting New York City to Buffalo would be the "Erie Canal" of the 21st Century, helping to rebuild the upstate economy. (You can read that letter here).

Petra Tordorovich, director of America 2050 at the Regional Plan Association said this is a smart political move.

Tordorovich said Cuomo is showing "he's ready to step in and build this project if other governors are not."

That wins him points with rail supporters and upstate voters. It can't hurt in the hunt for more funding, but its not likely to bring home the bacon, Tordorovich said. "The problem is that if the governors of Wisconsin and Ohio do send their money back to the Federal government, it probably goes into a federal pool...New York is in that pool with other states around the country."

New York is competing with other projects in Florida, California, Illinois, Michigan and elsewhere. 

New York has already pledged $28.5 million in federal appropriations for the Empire Rail Corridor project to connect New York City to Buffalo and other regional spurs. It's not clear how Cuomo would spend $1.25 billion if he could convince the Department of Transportation to give New York the funds.

When asked to comment on his letter, DOT spokeswoman Olivia Alair responded: "We recognize that there is an incredible demand for high-speed rail dollars around the country. The Obama administration’s high-speed rail program will create jobs, spur economic development and provide people with cleaner, greener alternatives to driving and flying.”