It may be too late to ‘untrack’ high-speed rail
When the feds were handing out stimulus money last year for high-speed rail, Wisconsin was the only state to get everything it wanted.
Be careful what you ask for.
Forty states applied for high-speed rail money and a cut of the $8 billion in HSR stimulus cash. Wisconsin received a fat chunk, with $810 million going toward the Milwaukee-to-Madison route.
Some states have enthusiastically leaped aboard the HSR express. In Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn started construction Friday on track improvements that will allow passenger trains to zoom up to 110 mph between Chicago and St. Louis.
In Wisconsin, the major gubernatorial candidates have a two-mind track on high-speed rail.
Republican Scott Walker stands by his claim that he will give all the stimulus money back if elected. Walker (who, in The Daily Reporter’s poll leads Democrat and HSR supporter Tom Barrett, 61 to 30 percent) says he doesn’t care that the state will have to reimburse the money already spent on high-speed rail. Walker said he’s willing to take that risk because he doesn’t think many construction contracts will be signed by the time he would take office in January.
That’s where he could be wrong.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has a host of projects tied to high-speed rail already out for bid, including land bridges and infrastructure upgrades. There are plans for a new train shed in Milwaukee and a new station at the Health Administration Building in Madison.
In all, state officials say they plan to have roughly $300 million in high-speed rail projects under contract by January, when the next governor will take over. Those contracts, according to stateline.org, include design work, construction of bridges and the purchase of construction materials such as steel and railroad ties.
That’s a pretty hefty amount to return to sender, especially given that Walker says Wisconsin faces an estimated a $2.5 billion shortfall in the next budget.
Joe Yovino is the Web editor at The Daily Reporter. He feels bad when he returns a tie.