DOT Spreads the Love with Wisconsin's Unwanted Rail Dollars

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(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway)  You sure you don’t want it? OK, fine. More for me.

That’s what transportation officials across more than a dozen states were saying to Wisconsin and Ohio today after Washington announced they would spread around their unwanted high speed rail money.

Newly-elected governors in both those states have said “no thanks” to nearly $1.2 billion in stimulus money targeted toward high-speed rail projects. So the Department of Transportation now says the money goes to states that are interested, the bulk of foregone money going to existing projects already begun in California and Florida. Full DOT release here.

DOT also says its opening discussions with Wisconsin and Ohio officials on how and when they’ll pay back federal high-speed rail money they’ve already spent. Similar negotiations with New Jersey over a cancelled rail tunnel are getting litigious and may prove to be an example for Wisconsin and Ohio.

In all, Wisconsin is giving up $810 million for a development of the Milwaukee-Madison corridor, while Ohio will cough up $400 million the “3C” route connecting Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

Wisconsin gets to hold on to up to $2 million—o.oo25 percent of the original amount—for its Hiawatha line. Wisconsin also faces the potential of a further economic hit as Spanish rail manufacturer, Talgo, has said they may move out of Wisconsin taking 40 existing jobs and 85 additional planned jobs.  Those jobs would go to another state if they chose to contract Talgo for train manufacturing with a contract that requires in state production. Job creation is part of why so many states vied for the passed up money from the Midwest.

“I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life,” DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

LaHood had it about right. Florida stands to gain $342.3 million in the deal, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), could barely contain himself in a Thursday afternoon tweet. “Looks like Santa's trading in his sleigh for a bullet train,” Nelson wrote.

Here’s a breakdown of how Wisconsin’s and Ohio’s $1.2 billion will be spread a round, according to DOT:

  • California: up to $624 million
  • Florida: up to $342.3 million
  • Washington State: up to $161.5 million
  • Illinois: up to $42.3 million
  • New York: up to $7.3 million
  • Maine: up to $3.3 million
  • Massachusetts: up to $2.8 million
  • Vermont: up to $2.7 million
  • Missouri up to $2.2 million
  • Wisconsin: up to $2 million for the Hiawatha line
  • Oregon: up to $1.6 million
  • North Carolina: up to $1.5 million
  • Iowa: up to $309,080
  • Indiana: up to $364,980