Iowa governor set to cut rail projects

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DES MOINES, Iowa. -- Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is poised to become the latest in a series of newly sworn-in Republican governors to return federal high speed rail money, the Des Moines Register has reported. Branstad, who had served as Iowa's governor once before, from 1983 to 1999, told reporters, "I don’t think we should be in the business of subsidizing passenger train service.”

Iowa’s money was to go to upgrading track and signals on Iowa Interstate’s route between Davenport and Iowa City, Iowa, to launch a new Amtrak service between Chicago, the Quad Cities, and Iowa City. The project was awarded a $230 million grant in October 2010 by the federal government, as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act's high speed rail program.

In addition, the Iowa Legislature had allocated $10 million in state money for the project. Although construction would be largely paid for by the federal grant, the state would be required to provide operating subsidies for the line on an annual basis.

If he follows through, Branstad would join fellow freshman Govs. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and John Kasich, R-Ohio, in turning back federal rail money distributed as part of the recovery act. Both Walker and Kasich had stated their intention to kill state passenger rail projects that had been awarded stimulus funds, and sought to redistribute those funds to highway projects. In both cases, the Department of Transportation rescinded the money and directed it to other states. If Branstad cuts the project, it is likely that the federal funds scheduled for Iowa's portion of the route would be likewise reallocated.

Regardless of Branstad's decision, the Illinois Department of Transportation is expected to continue with the project on its side of the state border, in which case the new service would end at Rock Island, Ill.
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