Wisconsin, Ohio reject funds for high-speed rail

WISCONSIN, OHIO REJECT FUNDS FOR HIGH-SPEED RAIL…. The United States has an infrastructure problem. We’re currently “saddled with a rapidly decaying and woefully underfunded transportation system,” which undermines our economy and weakens our position against global competitors.

A bipartisan investigation recently found that U.S. investment in preservation and development of transportation infrastructure “lags so far behind that of China, Russia and European nations that it will lead to ‘a steady erosion of the social and economic foundations for American prosperity in the long run.'”

The Obama administration has made infrastructure a priority. Some newly-elected Republican governors don’t care.

Gov.-elect Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Gov.-elect John Kasich in Ohio campaigned on pledges to stop passenger-rail projects in their states. On Thursday, they got their wish.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rescinded nearly $1.2 billion that had been allocated to Wisconsin and Ohio for new train lines. Wisconsin, which received $810 million for a passenger train between Madison and Milwaukee, will have to forfeit the entire amount. Ohio must give up $385 million of the $400 million allocated for a train connecting Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

Outgoing Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) urged his successor to reconsider, emphasizing the economic development associated with these infrastructure projects. Kasich refused, prompting Strickland to call the rejection of the funds “one of the saddest days during my four years as governor.”

We are, by the way, talking about projects that create jobs, spur economic development, relieve traffic congestion, and help the environment, all while offering the promise of transforming American transportation in the 21st century.

That apparently isn’t quite enough. The Republican line used to be that they can keep the trains running on time. The new line is that they can’t keep the trains running at all.

There is one silver lining, though, at least for those of us outside Ohio and Wisconsin. Those state’s leaders may not want the resources, the jobs, or the development, but the money will not be wasted — the WSJ noted that “the funds will be redirected to train projects in 14 states.”