Quantcast
Home / Government / Rail money sparks project, expectations (VIDEO)

Rail money sparks project, expectations (VIDEO)

By Sean Ryan

Wisconsin received $822 million from the $8 billion the federal government awarded Thursday for rail projects, but transit supporters want more.

The state will use $810 million to build a high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee, but that represents only the middle of a planned rail spur that eventually will stretch from Minneapolis to Chicago. Wisconsin also received $12 million to improve the tracks between Milwaukee and Chicago.

The biggest piece of the project, and one for which the state will need more money, is the line between Minneapolis and Madison.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett celebrates the award of $810 million to build rail lines from Milwaukee to Madison. Barrett on Thursday joined Roy Kienitz (left to right), U.S. Department of Transportation under secretary of policy, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Milwaukee Intermodel Station to discuss the project. (Photo by Sean Ryan)

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett celebrates the award of $810 million to build rail lines from Milwaukee to Madison. Barrett on Thursday joined Roy Kienitz (left to right), U.S. Department of Transportation under secretary of policy, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station to discuss the project. (Photo by Sean Ryan)

“We’re looking at probably a good decade of good, good construction work that will go on,” Gov. Jim Doyle said Thursday about the entire Minneapolis-to-Chicago project.

Minnesota received $1 million Thursday to engineer the Minneapolis-to-Madison route.

“Now it’s just seeing if the federal government continues to try to fund these projects,” said Karl Ostby, whom Doyle appointed as a Wisconsin representative on the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission. “Someone has said our current administration has shown more interest in rail than any administration since (Abraham) Lincoln’s time.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin, said the federal transportation reauthorization bill will include more money for rail, and she and other members of Congress are looking for new ways to pay for a nationwide project that Doyle and federal officials compared to construction of the interstate highway system.

“Transportation dollars are replenished by the gas tax and by other kinds of taxes,” Moore said. “We’re certainly looking at cap-and-trade and other types of emissions regulations as another revenue stream.”

Under cap-and-trade systems, companies and utilities that emit pollutants pay for the ability to emit beyond a limit set by the government.

The $8 billion in rail grants announced Thursday and the $2.5 billion for passenger rail in 2010 is great, said Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. But the Midwest alone will need $15 billion a year to get a true high-speed rail system that matches those in other countries, he said.

Trains on the line between Milwaukee and Madison will travel a maximum of 110 mph, he said.

“They are not high-speed rail,” he said. “The Chinese just opened a new line that covers 664 miles in three hours.”

Harnish’s association is part of a coalition lobbying for $4 billion for rail projects in the 2011 federal budget. As for the gap between $4 billion and the $15 billion needed, he said, there is a difference between what people want and what they can get.

“Those kinds of questions are being answered about the entire transportation network,” Harnish said. “The highway program is bankrupt, and it’s a big decision we’ll have to make.”

YouTube Preview Image

12 comments

  1. This is certainly a great announcement, and thanks to all concerned, but at the same time we have to keep the KRM Line project from being overshadowed. The KRM Line will serve the heavy population centers along the lakeshore.

  2. Stimulus money will be siphoned off by business owners if we use the private sector to implement these projects. They will pay their workers as little as possible and the money will never go into circulation. The whole point of running a business is to make money, not spend it. Workers on these projects need to be government employees, otherwise greedy business owners will just pocket the money for themselves.

  3. Give me a break Hilary one thing the state has enough of is goverment workers. Just remember the economy keeps spinning because of greedy business owners, I am sure all employees will be paid in line with the state prevailing wage laws. We do like to make a profit so we can pay the goverment in order for them to pay there employees.

  4. Look people…try not to be so overcome with excitement over this. Otherwise reasonably intelligent people seem to be clueless about ‘federal grant money’ as though it magically comes to us from the Rail Fairy. The age old truism is still true: Government cannot give away what they first must have taken.
    Temper your joy with a dose of reality:
    >Federal dollars are still TAX dollars that we (most of us) have paid. It’s not FREE MONEY.
    >It’s never enough. They haven’t even received one dime yet…and they’re already saying they need MORE! In this short article over 6 times, needing more money is eluded to.
    >Rail supporters grossly overestimate the ridership…We’re NOT Chicago, and they are not yet a better form of transportation for us, and thus, people will NOT ride them any where close to your estimates.
    >Every politician pushing for this, after the ribbon cutting ceremony and parade, will never again ride this train, and most of you supporters, will never ride this train, but hey, we got that federal money.

    Never mind my bias attitude…..
    Do your own personal analysis for a 1:00pm meeting in madison: here’s mine:
    -Drive to Brookfield station: 25 minutes
    -11 stops later, I’m not in Madison, I’m outside of town near the airport:: 1.5 Hrs.
    -I call a cab, and $20 dollars gets me to my meeting: 30 minutes
    TOTAL: 3 hours, 40-50 dollars (gas, cab, train fare) later. All of that, has to work around a rigid train time departure sched. Does a train depart at 10:00 from Brookfield? No, so if I want to ride the train, I have to catch the morning run, and basically burn an entire workday, for one 1:00 meeting.
    ——OR——
    I go to the office, get over 3 hours of work done, hop in the car at 11:30am, I’m at the meeting, no wasted time. TOTAL: 90 minutes and a half a tank of gas. $20
    Hmmmmm….what will I do???

    Finally, if for no other reason, if this boondoggle helps lead us to cap and trade legislation, that is more than enough reason to oppose it. Obama himself, you may recall, said of this legislation that it will “cause our energy prices to necessarily skyrocket.” Cap and trade is a job killing, economy killing, drive the price of almost everything through the roof, piece of legislation that we cannot afford. If you CAN afford it….then you definately won’t be riding any trains.

  5. I see the old “it’s our tax money anyways” argument has surfaced above. Except that it’s not just our tax money being invested here, it’s all the other 49 states’ tax money coming into Wisconsin as well. And rightfully so, for a change, because Wisconsin has helped pay its share to build and operate other states’ rail systems all over America for four decades without Wisconsinites ever being able to even see these results of our generosity, let alone use them. Well, now it’s our turn. Wisconsin has been a Donor State long enough, paying out for other states’ projects, and now they have their chance to thank us where it counts. Finally.

  6. This will be fantastic! I have used mass transit all over the world, and it is nice to see that Wisconsin is gradually moving toward restoring a decent level of transit service. What is most heartening about this announcement is that it re-balances transportation priorities. For too long, automobiles have been subsidized as a transit mode in their manufacture, use, and sales (taxpayer subsidies such as cash-for-clunkers, GM bailout, highway projects, artificially low gas tax).

    Here is my personal analysis for a 1 pm meeting in Madison:

    * Walk to the intermodal station in Milwaukee — a pleasant 25 minute walk that gives me exercise, allows me to stop for a few errands, and gets me at the station with exercise and in a good mood

    * On the train trip to Madison, I can read, sleep, use my laptop, meet with a colleague. People driving, of course, spend the whole time paying attention to the road and can do none of these things–they waste the entire trip time.

    * Train pulls into Madison, arriving at the airport

    * I catch an express bus from the airport to the downtown area

    Moreover, I live totally car-free, so I save thousands of dollars per year by not owning a car. I don’t have to worry about parking, gas, fighting traffic, etc. I get exercise, and have all the time on the train to do work and read or nap.

    The productivity gains for those who are astute and experienced in using mass transit will be tremendous. For people who are not familiar with how to use mass transit or manage their time, they need to get some education, and drop the idea that high speed rail means “door to door” service. Using a transit system does take some intelligence and fitness, and perhaps some in the general public may not be able to grasp or cope with that.

  7. Congratulations John. You’re the ONE! This is very exciting to hear from that guy that this might work well for. It is however called ‘Mass Transit’, and for 99% of the ‘Masses’ this is still a boondoggle, and huge waste of taxpayer money.
    And Louis…it may be ‘old’ to think of it as our money, but it doesn’t change the fact that IT IS. This money comes from us (collectivelly as a nation), and it’s being foolishy spent by us (collectivelly), and we will not see economic recovery, as a Nation, until government spending is reined in, not increased, and the “We need to get ours” thinking stops.

  8. T.E.A. – I hate be the one to inform you this, but that map at the top does not actually show were the train will stop, it shows the communities the train will pass through… There will not be 11 stops on the route, there won’t even be 11 stops if you take the train all the way from madison to chicago!

  9. To respond to smilies’ point: According to WisDOT’s request for engineers to work on Madison-to-Milwaukee station design, the department is planning stops in Madison, Watertown, Oconomowoc and Brookfield. There will also be a stop in Milwaukee. The solicitation can be found here: http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/business/docs/se02spejan10.doc. City engineers from the communities say the stations are to be built by the end of 2012. We’ll have a story about the planning for the new stations online later today (Tuesday) and in Wednesday’s paper.

  10. Well then, in that case, I take back everything I said. That makes it way better.
    Give me a break, whether it’s 11 stops, 5 stops, or non-stop, it doesn’t change the main fact; not enough people will ride this thing to even remotely make it worthwhile. Focus here…big picture…can you say boondoggle?

  11. T.E.A. wrote: “…it may be ‘old’ to think of it as our money, but it doesn’t change the fact that IT IS. This money comes from us (collectivelly as a nation), and it’s being foolishy spent by us (collectivelly), and we will not see economic recovery, as a Nation, until government spending is reined in, not increased, and the “We need to get ours” thinking stops”……Assuming what T.E.A. say is true, where were the objections over Wisconsin’s contributions to everyone else’s rail projects? You *do* realize that the rest of the nation has built rail projects over the past decades, and hardly with their own money? I heard not a peep of protest over that, nothing. And now when Wisconsin stands to benefit from OPM, now we’re hearing objections?…. “not enough people will ride this thing to even remotely make it worthwhile. Focus here…big picture…can you say boondoggle?” … This “thing” has a name – it’s a passenger train, and a state-of-the-art one at that – and attempting to dismiss its importance to Wisconsin with outworn cliches only reinforces the proposal to the visionaries. This line will happen and if, for the sake of argument, it should fail — and I predict here and now that ridership will exceed even the planners’ expectations — then and only then will silly epithets be in order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*