During today's Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Senator Kohl pressed US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the timeline for getting federal high-speed rail funding to Wisconsin. Secretary LaHood testified before the subcommittee on which Senator Kohl serves. In January, the White House announced that Wisconsin was one of several states to be awarded funding in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects. Of the $822 million Wisconsin will receive, $810 million will be directed to the Madison-Milwaukee corridor and $12 million to the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor.
Kohl raised questions whether the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will be able to get funds to Wisconsin in time for the fall construction season. Stressing both the long-term and immediate benefits of high-speed rail, Kohl sought assurances that the process will move forward quickly and smoothly.
"In the short-term, the projects will create thousands of jobs and Wisconsin is anxious to get started," Kohl said. "If our goal is quickly creating jobs, getting this money out the door seems to be the most important thing we can do."
Secretary LaHood praised Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle's early leadership on high-speed rail, which has moved Wisconsin to the forefront in the Midwest for these federal funds and the jobs they will generate. Secretary LaHood indicated that the Department of Transportation would be ready to sign an agreement as quickly as possible, as soon as the states are ready to go. He suggested this process could begin as early as 10 to 14 days from now.
"Connecting Wisconsin's major metropolitan areas via high-speed rail will yield both immediate and long-term benefits," Kohl said. "Ultimately, this link will help develop Madison and Milwaukee's economies, creating long-term growth for each city."
Last November, Senator's Kohl and Feingold sent a letter to Secretary LaHood in support of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's application to the Federal Railroad Administration for funding under the ARRA rail program. Additionally, Kohl called Secretary LaHood on January 21st when officials at the Department of Transportation indicated that decisions were being made about how to allocate the funding.