Wisconsin re-applies for high-speed rail funds

The state, which rejected its portion of the funding in December, was among 24 states that applied for high-speed rail funds rejected by Florida. The US Department of Transportation said it received $10bn of demand for the $2.4bn available.

Nearly half of the US’ fifty states have requested $10 billion in federal high-speed rail funds from the US Department of Transportation (DOT), including Wisconsin, which earlier rejected its award under President Barack Obama’s struggling high-speed rail programme.

The DOT said in a statement that it received more than 90 applications from 24 states as well as Amtrak, the US government-owned passenger rail carrier. The $10 billion they requested is more than four times the $2.4 billion available.

The DOT made the money available last month after Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott canceled his state’s flagship high-speed rail project and rejected the state’s $2.4 billion funding award. The move followed similar decisions by governors in Wisconsin and Ohio who rejected $1.2 billion for their projects in December, citing doubts about their projects’ viability and the fear of cost overruns.

The DOT redistributed the funding for Wisconsin and Ohio to other states, including Florida, in proportion to the amount of states’ original stimulus awards for high-speed rail.

Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation submitted two individual applications requesting federal funds of about $210 million, and also partnered with transportation departments in Missouri, Illinois, and Michigan to request an additional $952 million in federal high-speed rail funding. The funds would be used primarily to acquire cars and locomotives for Amtrak’s existing Hiawatha Chicago to Milwaukee line.

Wisconsin had previously been slated to receive $810 million in federal high-speed rail funds to extend the Hiawatha line beyond Milwaukee to Madison, before Republican Governor Scott Walker canceled the project.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, also previously announced the state would seek about $1 billion of Florida’s canceled funds.

The DOT did not disclose the size of specific requests by the states in this round of redistributed funding, but the department did say the awards will be given to “to projects that can deliver public and economic benefits quickly”. The Federal Railroad Administration will now review the applications, and has not yet set a date to determine when the new projects will be announced.

Amtrak said in a statement that it requested $1.3 billion to replace a New Jersey bridge, upgrade travel times between New York and Philadelphia, and make other improvements along its Northeast Corridor, which connects Boston to Washington DC. Amtrak has previously said it would cost $117 billion to turn the corridor into a high-speed rail line.

Ten US senators from states along the eastern seaboard, including New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and Maryland, had previously sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to express their interest in receiving a share of Florida’s funding. Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wanted $517 million to support eight projects across the state.

On the West Coast, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said last week that it would request all of Florida’s discarded funds for its $43 billion high-speed rail line connecting major cities all across the state.
Below is the full list of states that requested funding, according to the DOT:  

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Ilinois
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin