Iowa Getting Off Bus Speed Rail?

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has refused to pay $15,000 in annual dues to the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association. This comes after the state legislature declined to fund intercity rail programs in the 2012 budget. Various public agencies had offered to pay the $15,000 on behalf of the state, however Branstad declined the money, with a spokesperson saying that the Legislature had "made their will crystal-clear" about funding membership in the organization.

The Midwest High-Speed Rail Association has been promoting an intercity rail system that would serve Chicago from other major metropolitan areas, operating at substantially below international high-speed rail standards. In the case of the Iowa route, travel to Chicago would be slower than the present bus service, which does not require public subsidy and which provides free high-speed Internet. This issue is described in greater detail in an earlier article.

The proposed national high-speed rail system has run into considerable difficulty at the state level. In addition to the reluctance of Iowa to participate, the states of Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio have refused federal funding. In the case of Florida, the genuine high-speed rail system was canceled by Governor Scott out of fear that the cost overruns, which have occurred in 90 percent of cases, would be the responsibility of state taxpayers. The California system could be nearly $60 billion short of its funding requirements for the first phase and is running into serious difficulties from citizens along the route. The Missouri legislature declined to include funding for part of the Midwest system earlier this year. Finally, the North Carolina legislature has placed requirements for its own review of any future federal grants for high-speed rail.