Obama transportation officials announced today they will redistribute nearly $1.2 billion in high-speed rail dollars originally appropriated for Ohio and Wisconsin to 13 other states. Illinois could receive up to $42 million, according to a Department of Transportation press statement. The news comes on the heels of the election of GOP governors in Ohio and Wisconsin who campaigned against accepting the federal money and spending it, and state dollars, on rail infrastructure.
While it's tempting to see this news as a zero-sum game -- the Buckeye and Badger states' loss as Illinois' gain -- developing a broader Midwestern high-speed rail network ultimately will require the participation of our neighbors. The feds seemed to at least partially recognize that today; around $2 million of the redistributed funds will pay for rail upgrades between Milwaukee and Chicago. But for many people around the region looking for a convenient transportation option (not to mention the economic and environmental benefits high-speed rail promises), that's a small consolation prize versus the $810 million Wisconsin is losing for rail between Madison and Milwaukee.