Stephen Hayes‘ latest Weekly Standard article explains how two new Midwestern governors ? elected at least in part because of voters’ concerns about federal plans to use stimulus dollars for large-scale transportation boondoggles ? are losing their battles to kill off the boondoggle projects.

In the rush to put together the $814 billion stimulus package, the administration had packed it with funding for projects?like electric cars and high-speed rail?that had long been favorites of the we-know-better crowd in Washington. Voters of two Midwestern states, judging from the elections and polling on the issue, had looked at the administration?s $1.2 billion stimulus gift and said, with characteristic Midwestern politeness, ?No, thank you.?

The Obama administration wasn?t having it, these voters not understanding what?s good for them. So they insisted: You?ll take the damn trains?or else! Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told both [Ohio’s John] Kasich and [Wisconsin’s Scott] Walker within days of their election that if their states didn?t want the money, other states were eager to get their hands on it. In other words, if you don?t want to waste our money, we?ll find someone who will.

Walker proposed that the money be repurposed to fund Wisconsin?s real transportation needs: improving the state?s bridges and highways. Nearly 20 percent of Wisconsin bridges have structural deficiencies and are in need of replacement or rehabilitation. …

Kasich, a noted deficit hawk, proposed that Ohio return the $400 million to the federal government to be used exclusively for deficit reduction. Three Wisconsin congressmen, including Representative Paul Ryan, introduced legislation that would do the same thing with Wisconsin?s money. Together, that would mean a savings of $1.2 billion?not a huge amount in the context of the federal budget, but not insignificant for an administration suddenly concerned (at least rhetorically) about deficits. 

But the administration, with a vice president who loves Amtrak even more than the sound of his own voice, is determined to spend the money on trains?somewhere, somehow. So last week, LaHood announced that the stimulus money would be going to California and other states.