Illinois to Wisconsin: We'll Take Your High-Speed Rail Money

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 9, 2010 8:00PM

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Image via the White House.

One of the bullet points of Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker's campaign was opposing the construction of a high-speed rail line from Milwaukee to Madison, due to the $7.5 million annual operation costs Madison would have to pony up. Walker has pledged to reject $810 million stimulus funds geared toward the construction of the line.

With that in mind, Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig said, "We'll take it." Illinois has already received $1.2 billion in high speed rail funding, and Hannig said that the money could be earmarked for further improvements for a Chicago-St. Louis corridor, as well as build stations for high-speed rail in Rockford and Joliet.

Evanston State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg said he would work with other legislators in persuading the Department of Transportation to transfer the funds from Wisconsin to Illinois. Jobs are also in the balance, as Milwaukee-based high-speed rail maker Talgo has said they may have to move to where the high-speed rails are in order to stay in business. A transfer of those funds from Wisconsin to Illinois would make one hell of a enticement for Talgo to move to Illinois, and give Governor Pat Quinn a major feather in his cap to tell Illinois residents he's working to create jobs.

Schoenberg got in a well-placed dig at Walker, saying, “If the new governor of Wisconsin is overwhelmed by $800 million of federal funds, we’d be happy to take that burden off his back." New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo also has eyes on the Wisconsin money.