California Receives Unexpected Windfall to Build High Speed Rail Projects

Dec 14, 2010 by Tom Jones

Although Wisconsin obtained commitments of approximately 800 million dollars for High Speed Rail projects, and an additional 400 million dollars from the Federal Stimulus package–a total of 1.2 billion dollars was pledged to Wisconsin.

Unbelievably, Governor-elect Scott Walker last week vowed to kill the planned 110-mph Milwaukee-to-Madison passenger train route that was to be funded with Wisconsin’s share of $8 billion in Federal High Speed Rail funds, and requested that the money already pledged for Wisconsin be repatriated to other States.

Not to be outdone, Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich also rejected $400 million in Stimulus funds already committed to the State for a planned 79-mph line connecting Wisconsin’s State’s three largest cities.

Governor-elect Scott Walker decided to kill both of the two proposed projects from the pledged Federal money “because he sees the rail line as a symbol of excessive government spending.“

Well, because of these decisions, perhaps unwise, California and a few other states will receive the money instead, which are earmarked for High Speed Rail and other infrastructure projects.

With California receiving the lion’s share of the earmarked money estimated at 624 million, apparently ideology tops realism in Walker’s decision.

In fact, that’s not the total story–even with the federal government paying all construction costs, Walker also said he doesn’t want Wisconsin state taxpayers to bear any of the operating costs once the proposed projects would be completed.

The State estimated those operating costs at $7.5 million per year after subtracting fare revenue, but revised ridership would have cut the taxpayers’ share by $2.8 million. Additionally, the state could have used part of its federal highway funds to cover 80% to 90% of the taxpayer’s share.

As an economical and environmentally friendly means of travel, high-speed rail transportation is the latest industry to receive a whole host of support and investment, with California and Florida the first states to be given funding and grants.

Government officials hope these transportation plans will bring an economic boost and job prosperity throughout the country, particularly for our financially burdened and heavily unemployed Golden State. Source: Travelin’ Local

The reasoning behind the politicians’ decision in Wisconsin to reject the money was because they based their decisions on pure ideological grounds ignoring how the improvements would add real benefits to their citizens:

My congratulations to the workers in California and Florida. As a result of this decision, you will have a merry Christmas," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said at a news conference. "I’m just sad the same won’t happen here in Wisconsin. Source: OSOnline

Although California will receive $2.3 billion in Federal Stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build an electrically-powered high-speed rail system that will span 800 miles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the extra money will pay huge dividends in both employment, length of rail, and other improvements than previously estimated.

Although the powers that be in Wisconsin decided to fall on their own sword, there’s no question that the conundrum of density and transportation in our fair state can only benefit from addition means of alternative transportation.

Lastly, with both our congested roads and freeways and need for additional jobs, this latest development is a win-win scenario for California.

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