Wednesday, November 10, 2010

LaHood: HSR funds are for rail—not roads

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DOT Secretary Ray LaHood had a blunt message Tuesday for states that want to spend their high speed rail grants on highways or rail freight projects: Use the grants for passenger rail or return the money to Washington, said LaHood.

He was responding to a request from Republican Gov.-elect John Kasich in Ohio to use a $400 million high speed rail grant to improve highways or freight railroads.

“I would like high speed rail to be part of Ohio’s future,” said LaHood, adding that the alternative is “to wind down Ohio's involvement in the project so that we do not waste taxpayers’ money.”

LaHood reminded Kasich that 30 foreign passenger rail manufacturers have made commitments to locate operations in the United States “so that we can restart idled manufacturing plants in Ohio and other states.”

A similar message went to Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker, also a Republican, who campaigned against spending an $810 million grant on a planned higher speed line connecting Madison and Milwaukee, and said he wanted instead to invest the money in highways.