States Moving at High Speed for Rail Funds
In an encouraging sign that not all state officials hate economic development, 24 states have applied for the high-speed rail funds rejected (needlessly) by Florida Governor Rick Scott. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation, 90 applications from 24 states totalling almost $10 billion were submitted for the $2.4 billion available. Minnesota is one of those states.
The applications for funds were due on April 4th, but the announcement date for awards has not yet been set. Besides the 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak also submitted applications. Amtrak's application focuses on increasing speed in the Northeast corridor, and studying the potential of two new tunnels under the Hudson River, as the USA Today reports.
Believe it or not, Wisconsin is one of the 24 states that applied for funding. If you're scratching your head at that news, take comfort in knowing that you aren't alone. The application is not for high-speed rail, but instead for improved service for the successful Milwaukee to Chicago route.
It still does come from Governor Scott Walker, who campaigned against trains and boldly rejected $810 million of high-speed rail funds when he took office. Some of those funds went to Florida, and now he's requesting $150 million of the available funds to buy more trains, according to an article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Minnesota is hoping to move forward on projects of its own besides the high-speed rail link to Chicago. According to Dan Krom, the director of MnDOT's Passenger Rail office, that route is ineligible for further funding in its current phase of planning. Instead, Minnesota applied for funding for three smaller projects.
The first project is for the next phase of work for the Northern Lights Express, the train route spanning from the Twin Cities to Duluth. The request is for $9 million to improve the existing track between the two metros. The other two projects focus on improving capacity and efficiency for freight and passenger rail in the metropolitan area, and request a total of $137 million. These projects would provide construction jobs and also improve Minnesota's ability to meet increased rail traffic in the future. Here's hoping we get a slice of the pie.