More fed funds may be available for high-speed rail plans

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Although opponents are still trying to stop a high-speed rail project between Milwaukee and Madison in its tracks, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced this week that it is making even more federal dollars available for states to plan additional rail lines.
The FRA said it will begin accepting applications this week for $115 million in planning and construction project funds for more high-speed intercity passenger rail.
Wisconsin could apply for some of that additional federal money to help with the planning to extend the line to the Twin Cities.
The agency will make available $50 million in planning project funds appropriated under the U.S. Department of Transportation fiscal 2010 budget and approximately $65 million in residual construction project funds appropriated under its 2009 budget.
“We are excited to move forward the President’s vision on high-speed rail and are working quickly to get funding in the hands of states,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
“We look forward to working with states to lay the groundwork for their high-speed rail programs and also help other states get specific projects off the ground so that jobs can be created in the near-term,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. “These funds supplement the President’s initial down payment on high-speed rail and represent a commitment to developing a world-class transportation network.”
Applications and proposals for the funds will be due back to FRA by May 19, with selection announcements to be made over the summer.
Wisconsin Rep. Brett Davis (R-Oregon), a candidate for lieutenant governor, on Tuesday introduced a bill designed to stop the high-speed rail project in southeastern Wisconsin, saying the $810 million project’s approval amounted to "almost a billion dollars approved by just a handful of legislators."
The bill would require approval from the full Legislature to authorize spending on rail projects. The bill would suspend that Milwaukee-to-Madison project, as well as require approval for spending any federal, state or local funding on any "rail passenger service extension project."
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a GOP candidate for governor, joined Davis at the Capitol press conference, saying the state should be focused on rebuilding existing roads and bridges.
Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle called Davis’ proposal "ridiculous," predicting "it’s not going anywhere."
– BizTimes Milwaukee

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