Illinois will take fed funds rejected by Wisconsin
By Mary Wisniewski Sun-Times Media Transportation Writer November 9, 2010 12:52PM
Illinois wants the $810 million in federal high-speed rail money that Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker has promised to reject.
“We’d love to have it,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. He said Illinois, which has already received $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funding, could spend Wisconsin’s money making further improvements to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor to add more passenger runs.
The money also could be used to build stations in Joliet and Rockford, Hannig said.
Walker, a Republican, made opposing a high-speed train line from Milwaukee to Madison a key part of his campaign against Democrat Tom Barrett. Walker objected to the state having to pay up to $7.5 million a year in ongoing operational costs.
State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston) said he would work with other lawmakers to persuade the U.S. Department of Transportation to transfer the money to Illinois. He also would like to see trainmaker Talgo, Inc. move here. Talgo has said it can’t promise to stay in Milwaukee if the state rejects the rail project.
“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,” Schoenberg said.
Illinois has competition — Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo in New York already has sent the DOT a letter saying his state would take the money if Wisconsin rejects it.