Quantcast
Home / Government / Elections loom large for high-speed rail project

Elections loom large for high-speed rail project

By Paul Snyder

High-speed rail advocates are racing the state’s gubernatorial election cycle to line up support for an expanded track network to Green Bay and Minneapolis.

“This is not a done deal,” said Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz at a rally Tuesday for high-speed rail expansion. “We don’t know what the next governor will do.”

Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker and Mark Neumann said they oppose the expansion of high-speed rail in Wisconsin. Furthermore, they said they would order the state stop construction of the Milwaukee-to-Madison line approved this year.

VISIT THE DAILY REPORTER’S HIGH-SPEED RAIL PROJECT PROFILE PAGE

“There is no model I’ve seen that shows this line could be paid off or that it would break even,” Neumann said of the Milwaukee-to-Madison project. “It’s not fair to have folks in Superior paying for a line that people in Madison and Milwaukee use.”

Walker said he would rather spend state and federal transportation money on roads and bridges. He said he believes Republican and Democratic lawmakers would support that opinion.

“The money will go toward roads and bridges in their districts,” he said, “rather than rail lines that have limited access in the state.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett was unavailable for comment. Barrett spokesman Phil Walzak said the Milwaukee mayor supports high-speed rail to Madison.

Walzak said Barrett would have to see cost estimates for lines to Green Bay and Minneapolis before developing an opinion.

“The funding,” Walzak said, “is going to be an important part of this.”

The Milwaukee-to-Madison line will receive $810 million of the $8 billion dedicated to high-speed rail projects in the federal stimulus package. On top of that, Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar, a Democrat, has proposed the next federal transportation bill include $50 billion for high-speed rail development.

If that money becomes available, Wisconsin needs to be in a position to use it, said Sarah Seibold, student leader of the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, a Madison-based advocacy organization that works on budget and policy issues. Tuesday’s rally at the state Capitol was the third of seven stops WISPIRG student members will make this week. Each stop is designed to promote high-speed rail in a Wisconsin city that could be along the expanded network.

“We can provide more options for the public,” Seibold said, “and not just build more highways that are costly and sometimes unnecessary.”

Those who complain about the estimated $7.5 million annual cost of operating high-speed trains between Milwaukee and Madison, Seibold said, are not paying attention to the realities of transportation construction.

“We subsidize highways and streets too,” she said. “It’s just wrong to think that any major transportation project can stand on its own two legs.”

Cieslewicz said he believes Barrett can beat the GOP candidates in November and help extend rail lines north and into Minnesota.

“We just see ourselves as the first phase,” Cieslewicz said of the Milwaukee-to-Madison line. “We want to be connected to other major cities, and it’s important that politicians understand now that it’s good for the economy.”

12 comments

  1. “There is no model I’ve seen that shows this line could be paid off or that it would break even,” Neumann said of the Milwaukee-to-Madison project. “It’s not fair to have folks in Superior paying for a line that people in Madison and Milwaukee use.”

    Ah, yes, there’s that worn-out old “pay-for-itself” song and dance again from Mark Neumann, who should know that no public service “pays” for itself. Using Neumann’s analogy, the police would charge everyone who called for services, and the fire departments would assess everyone for saving their home and business. We won’t discuss universities, school aids, libraries and state perks right now but Wisconsin taxpayers already pay into Superior’s roads, harbor and airport.

  2. “(Scott) Walker said he would rather spend state and federal transportation money on roads and bridges.” Well of course Scott Walker would rather spend on that, since Scott Walker took $50,000 in hard campaign cash from the immensely-powerful oad-builders at their meetings in OOrlando last winter. We all know who’s paddling Scott Walker’s boat.

  3. I do not oppose High Speed Rail but I do oppose that half-a$$ solution they are proposing… Madison is far too close to use this type of rail service. Draw a line from Milwaukee to the twin cities, find the closest railroad track to that line and upgrade that to HSR standards… no stops, no grade crossings, no shared trackage rights. If Madison wants to tap into that line, give them a stop along the way and have them run their commuter rail out to that stop… don’t adjust the HSR to Madison… then see what kind of support Madison has for the system.

  4. Great idea Bob, many more in the state would be willing to except this as well as the rail would be stones throw for all residents. It would be interesting to see if the people in Madison would be willing to spend there own local tax dollars on such an item as a commuter rail.
    From urban lakefront sewer dump to a northwoods pristine campsite in two hours has some potential. A straight line Milwaukee to the Twin Cities would open up endless oppurtunitys for the entire stste not just the liberal elite.

  5. In a press release issued by the Walker Campaign on March 7, 2010:
    http://www.scottwalker.org/press-release/2010/03/icymi-beware-hidden-costs-federal-stimulus
    Scott Walker says “When Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett advocate spending $810 million in federal stimulus money on a high-speed rail line from Milwaukee to Madison, they don’t talk about all the hidden costs to Wisconsin taxpayers to operate and maintain the line once it’s built. Maybe that’s because nobody really knows how much it will cost.”

    Misleading Scott Walker scare tactics. Nothing is “hidden”; High Speed Rail in Wisconsin has been planned and publicized since Governor Tommy Thompson first proposed it in 1996. Wisconsin is getting 100% federal funding because of its leadership and advance planning, and Wisconsin voters in 1992 approved a constitutional amendment to allow the state to invest in railroads. WisDOT and the other states involved in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative have published numerous studies and have had many public forums and hearings, and WisDOT provides information on its website about the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison grant application, part of the state’s Connections 2030 long range transportation plan, developed with a significant amount of public input. Nothing was ever “hidden”, and to suggest that supporters “don’t talk about” the costs or that “nobody really knows” is a total fabrication even Scott Walker’s supporters should see through. Continuing:

    Scott Walker says “Accepting this money means obligating Wisconsin taxpayers to spend millions more every year. They say Wisconsin should grab the money before another state gets it and just hope everything will work out. That is just the kind of irresponsible spending that will lead to even bigger state budget deficits and higher taxes down the road.”

    The federal government funding the capital for transportation projects like the Interstate Highway System. The $8 billion for High Speed Rail in the 2009 Recovery Act is minuscule compared to the billions spent on highways over the past 75 years. Wisconsin also qualified for over $500 million in highway funding from the same stimulus program. Does the Walker campaign suggest also sending this money back to Washington? Or accept no federal funding for any program? That would be the logical extension of this argument.

    The state’s passenger rail program is a very small part of the annual transportation budget, and the additional $7.5 million per year that the Milwaukee-Madison line will require in ongoing support is less than two tenths of 1% of the state’s $3.4 billion annual transportation budget. (Interestingly, opponents have now decided to unilaterally round up this number and are claiming the cost will be $10 million/year.)

    Scott Walker says: “They tell us that spending $810 million on high-speed rail will create thousands of new Wisconsin jobs, but according to the federal government’s own estimate, the total number of permanent jobs created will be 55. That’s more than $14.5 million per job, not including any hidden costs!”

    The jobs come from the transportation/development benefits it will create. Does Scott Walker measure the value of the construction of a freeway only in the number of permanent jobs it creates for highway workers? One study said development of a regional High Speed Rail System will return over $1.80 in net economic benefits from every dollar invested.

    Scott Walker says “No one seems able to provide an accurate estimate of what it will cost to operate and maintain the new rail line or who will pay for it. Rail projects in numerous other areas have seen original cost estimates skyrocket once construction begins. For example, California’s new, faster system will be about $65 million per mile.”

    A really misleading assertion. Walker is referring to California’s planned new 200 MPH high speed rail line, not like Wisconsin’s 110 MPH line using existing rail rights of way.

    Scott Walker says “Study after study shows that rail passenger fares are likely to cover only 20% of the operating costs. That leaves you and me to pick up the other 80% through higher taxes and fees.”

    Scott Walker is totally fabricating those numbers. WisDOT’s official plan for the first year of the line conservatively estimates a 62% cost recovery, The Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha trains recover 65%, way up from 51% in 2004, and Scott Walker ignores that *all* modes receive subsidies from taxpayers, including highways, airports and harbors, even sidewalks and bike paths. In 2007, just 51% of the costs of highway and street construction and maintenance came from user fees like licensing and fuel taxes.

    Scott Walker says “Initial estimates predict 338,000 people will ride the train from downtown Milwaukee to the Dane County Airport in Madison each year. That’s but a fraction of the state’s population.”

    This line is the next leg of the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha, where ridership has grown 58% over the past 5 years to over 740,000 people in 2009, and next will come the leg to western Wisconsin and the Twin Cities with passengers traveling between various points all along the line. And Scott Walker’s citing this as a “fraction of the state’s population?” is as inaccurate as applying the same question to funding a county road or bridge in a rural county.

    Scott Walker says “It would take one hour and 20 minutes and cost me between $40 and $66 round trip. I can get there and back on half a tank of gas without making any stops, and I won’t have to pay for parking on the front end or taxi service once I arrive.”

    Walker speaks in extremes. Just because HE mightn’t use the train does not mean that *nobody* would. Using the IRS-allowed reimbursement for the cost of operating a car (50 cents/mile), it costs about $40 to drive one way from Milwaukee to Madison, and the highway cost Scott Walker cites doesn’t include the part of the trip picked up by taxpayers and going up faster as fuel prices increase (see those prices today?) since trains are more fuel efficient.

    Scott Walker said “We need to know where the state will get the money to fully fund high-speed rail when it can’t even afford to maintain our current transportation systems. Over the past few years, Doyle and the Legislature have raided $1.3 billion from the segregated transportation fund.” That $1.3 billion would fund the annual cost of the Milwaukee-Madison extension for 173 years.

    Scott Walker has said the Tommy Thompson Republican administration was a model he would like to emulate for creating a positive economic environment that is business-friendly and creates jobs … except it was Tommy Thompson who originally proposed the High Speed Rail project, and Republican governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mitch Daniels of Indiana were among eight Midwest Governors encouraging High Speed Rail funds to Milwaukee-Madison.

    Scott Walker asserts that, even if construction starts, he would stop the project if elected Governor and would “try to persuade the federal government to reallocate the $810 million award to highways”.

    Scott Walker’s advisers have gambled his campaign on appealing to uneducated noisy, angry tea-party types, and this unrealistic claim is the type of thing he thinks they like to hear. Except these High Speed Rail grants are still a drop in the bucket compared to annual federal spending on other transportation programs and would only go to another state while Wisconsin would have to absorb all costs already incurred – hardly a “fiscally conservative” position.

    Walker has his $50,000 campaign cash from the roadbuilders, explaining why he cannot look fairly at the costs, value, return on investment and priority of building this first Wisconsin link of the national high speed rail system for Wisconsin.

  6. Karen Quotes
    ” Walker gambling his campaign on uneducated noisy, angry tea party types.”

    Unless you have been hiding under a rock the last year, its common knowledge that the left, arrogant, academic, snobs appointed by the annointed one have failed this nation.

    Thats were you and your type fail Karen, you think the entire free world should bow to you and your type because your an intellectual with an advanced degree, we are not worthy of thinking areselves, it mimics old english colonialism type of government.

    Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, common sense is not putting it in a fruit salad.

    Dont take my word for it watch the polls come November, bet I wont be the only one with this opinion.

  7. The uneducated are the easily fooled (see: FoxNews). Based on his grammar, I’d put Troy’s education level at about the 8th grade.

    “Walker 2010: We Don’t Need No Fancy Book Learnin’. Glenn Beck Told Me So”

  8. “There is no model I’ve seen that shows this line could be paid off or that it would break even,” Neumann said of the Milwaukee-to-Madison project. “It’s not fair to have folks in Superior paying for a line that people in Madison and Milwaukee use.”

    “Ah, yes, there’s that worn-out old “pay-for-itself” song and dance again from Mark Neumann, who should know that no public service “pays” for itself. Using Neumann’s analogy, the police would charge everyone who called for services, and the fire departments would assess everyone for saving their home and business. We won’t discuss universities, school aids, libraries and state perks right now but Wisconsin taxpayers already pay into Superior’s roads, harbor and airport.”

    Exactly…. pure idiocy. By the same logic, it’s not fair that I have to pay for the interstate, Mitchell Field, etc. because they aren’t located in my town. Sadly, the people that actually fall for this sort of reasoning are allowed to vote. But at least they aren’t the “liberal elite”. *Rolls Eyes*

  9. Before you call me uneducated Abe check your own spelling and grammar. You sure showed me huh Abe? Get back in line with the rest of the sheep Abe, your not allowed to think, or reason on your own, government will do it for you.

  10. Abe
    just for the record many municipalities are charging for certain fire and police services.

  11. Mr. Troy Kaufert – upset over my comment about uneducated angry tea-party types” – writes “its common knowledge that the left, arrogant, academic, snobs appointed by the annointed one have failed this nation. Thats were you and your type fail Karen, you think the entire free world should bow to you and your type because your an intellectual with an advanced degree, we are not worthy of thinking areselves, it mimics old english colonialism type of government.”

    Troy Kaufert: thank you for making my point.

  12. Karen
    Dont forget to get out and vote today.

Leave a Reply

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

*