Monday, March 25, 2013

Illinois lands more HrSR funding

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Illinois has led the pack among Midwest states eager to improve intercity passenger rail service, particularly higher-speed rail (HrSR), both in terms of verbal support and fiscal commitment. The federal government has continued to reward the state, and has now redirected $808 million originally destined for neighboring Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rejected federal HrSR funding for the Badger State in 2010, citing the need to control spending. Among other reactions, Seattle-based Talgo USA sued Wisconsin last November for roughly $50 million, based on the state's decision "to terminate its contract with the State of Wisconsin to build passenger trains to be used by the State for Amtrak's Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago."

The Federal Railroad Administration has selected the Illinois Department of Transportation to manage the multistate procurement of at least 35 next-generation locomotives for HrSR routes in Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri in the Midwest, as well as HrSR operations in California (not the state's true HSR development) and in Washington state.

Illinois, meanwhile, likely also will use some of the funding for purchase of 88 HrSR passenger cars to be used in five Midwest states, already announced, with the perk of seeing the equipment built within the state at Nippon Sharyo's new plant in Rochelle, Ill. Nippon Sharyo is building the equipment in a joint venture with Sumitomo Corp. of America.

Gov. Pat Quinn said the decision to redirect the funds through Illionis "is a testament to Illinois' role as a national leader in high speed rail [sic]."

Wisconsin, along with Ohio, rejected federal funding to advance HrsR in 2010, followed by Florida, which spurned funding for a true high speed rail project in March 2011. Efforts by some states to divert rail funds for highway purposes were sharply rejected by DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.