Costly Rail Projects Casualties of 2010 Election

Efforts to advance high-speed rail in Indiana have always focused on a Midwest approach. Those efforts suffered a setback in last week’s election as new governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have clearly stated their intentions to halt projects in their states supported by federal funds. Stateline reports:

A shift from Democrats to Republicans in the governor’s mansions of Ohio and Wisconsin means that federally backed high-speed rail projects in both states likely will be stopped in their tracks.

Last week, just days after Republican Scott Walker won election to succeed Democratic Governor Jim Doyle in Wisconsin, Doyle’s administration told contractors on one of the projects, a proposed line between Madison and Milwaukee, to temporarily stop working, citing Walker’s victory, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. In his successful campaign, Walker ran on a vow to end the project, which he considers a waste of money.

In Ohio, Republican governor-elect John Kasich is calling on Democrat Ted Strickland — whom he defeated on Tuesday (November 2) —to promptly cancel a pair of studies on a proposed rail line connecting Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus. "Given that the train is dead under John, no additional state or taxpayer dollars should be spent on this project," a spokesman for Kasich told The Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio’s rail project is expected to cost $450 million and Wisconsin’s has been allocated $810 million in federal stimulus funds, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. It is not clear what will happen to the federal money if both new governors follow through on their pledges to cancel rail projects, though Walker has said he wants to use the money to repair Wisconsin’s roads and bridges instead, according to The Journal.

So far, the anti-rail pledges by Walker and Kasich are the most notable spending cuts being proposed by Republicans who swept into numerous governor’s offices last week. As Stateline reported Thursday (November 4), at least 11 new Republican governors and one new Democrat, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have vowed to address tens of billions of dollars in budget shortfalls without raising taxes, leaving major spending cuts as the likeliest outcome.