Milwaukee mayor offers angry response to death of high-speed rail
A visibly angry Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett accused Gov.-elect Scott Walker of conducting “ideological warfare” that led to the loss of $808 million that was to pay for high-speed rail in Wisconsin.
Barrett said the move will cost the state thousands of jobs.
“The real irony is that Wisconsin taxpayers will still have to pay $141 million for high-speed rail that will be in other states,” Barrett said at a press conference Thursday.
Thousands of construction jobs will be moved to California, Florida, Illinois and Washington, Barrett said. Those are the states that are getting the bulk of the money that had been allocated to Wisconsin.
“It’s a great day for California,” Barrett said. “California will get $624 million for high-speed rail. It will be a merry Christmas for thousands of construction workers in California.”
Wisconsin had been one of the big winners in the lottery for high-speed rail money, receiving an $810 million allocation, the largest of any state. All but $2 million has been redirected, Barrett noted. The $2 million will be for improvements on the rail line between Chicago and Milwaukee, he said.
The decision to reallocate the Wisconsin high-speed rail money came as no surprise. Walker, who defeated Barrett in the November gubernatorial election, campaigned hard against the project.
States applied for more than $50 billion in high-speed rail money, Barrett said. The goal in Wisconsin was to eventually connect Chicago to Minneapolis through Milwaukee and Madison.
“The worst-case scenario is that the high-speed rail will go around Wisconsin through Iowa City,” Barrett said.
He said high-speed rail has not always been a partisan issue. He said former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, had first raised the prospect while leading the state.
Barrett said he had not spoken with representatives of Talgo Inc., the Spanish-based manufacturer of train shells that moved its North American operation to Milwaukee in anticipation of the Milwaukee-to-Madison connection.
Earlier, Talgo officials said they were reassessing staying in Milwaukee.
Barrett also said the city had spent $5 million to $6 million as part of its effort to encourage high-speed rail but that some of that had been for improvements to Century City, the north side building where Talgo moved. Those site improvements would have occurred even without high-speed rail, he said.