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Robbing rail to pay Hoan is a bridge to nowhere

By Joe Yovino

Three things I’ve learned recently are: BP can’t fix an oil leak, LeBron James is a better self-promoter than the ShamWow guy and it’s never a good idea to rob Peter to pay Paul.

But the latter is exactly what state Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, and state Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, suggested yesterday when they sent a letter to federal officials asking that $250 million be diverted from the $810 million high-speed rail fund in order to fix the broken Hoan Bridge.

Yes, the surface of the Hoan Bridge is crumbling. Snow and salt have taken their toll on the 2-1/2-mile roadway leading into and out of Milwaukee. Concrete is breaking off the deck and 8-by-8-inch chunks have been found on Jones Island.

But the support structure, which was built in the mid-1970s, remains sound, according to WisDOT officials, and bids are out for more netting (there’s already some over the Summerfest grounds) to be placed over the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Treatment Plant.

Raiding money from one fund to help another is exactly what the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin was pushing to avoid back in May. The road builders’ association called for an amendment to the state’s constitution that would keep money earmarked for the transportation fund in, get this, the actual transportation fund (which, by the way, is currently facing an estimated $30 million hole).

Gov. Jim Doyle has transferred about $1.3 billion out of the state’s transportation fund during his terms. And there’s probably more pilfering on the horizon.

But, who knows? By then oil could stop spilling into the Gulf, LeBron will win a title with the Miami Heat and riders will look out the window of their high-speed train and see a shiny, new, smaller Hoan Lift Bridge.

Joe Yovino is the Web editor at The Daily Reporter. He’ll be watching tonight as James and Geraldo Rivera journey through Al Capone’s vault.

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  2. Ease up on the CAPS Ted, we understand you’re angry… and short-sighted. Time to pull your head out of the sand if you care at all about Milwaukee and its viability as a vibrant city in the future. We need comprehensive, connected transit of all forms — of which the evil high speed rail is one form. Travel the world, heck, travel to any of our major city neighbors to see just how far behind we are. It’s embarrassing. And it’s more embarrassing that the citizens of my fair City get their insight from angry AM talk radio. Let’s finally invest in our city’s future.

  3. What am amazingly dimwitted perspective. The Hoan should be demolished and replaced with an at-grade roadway that avoids the port. Cheaper, better for everyone in the long run.

    The goon squad is trying their darndest to neg high speed rail, don’t let them succeed. HSR is the most important infrastructure project in this country since the interstate highway. Wisconsin has a front seat on phase one – that’s a huge bonus for the state. Don’t let the goon squad screw it up!

  4. When younger, I’d be amazed at Wisconsin’s chronic backwater hick mentality, especially within political circles where one would expect more; now I accept it as an omnipresent reality and hope that enough caring, intelligent state residents can maintain some balance of linear thinking. Folks, this High-Speed Rail money is fully federally-funded and is earmarked for just that, the first leg of the grand plan to connect all major midwestern cities in the long-announced Midwest Rail Initiative. Again, this line will continue on to the Twin Cities; Madison isn’t the end of the line. If any money is drained away from it, or if Scott Walker wins in November and he isn’t stopped in his threat to halt all work on the HSR line, every penny of that federal money would go back to Washington as a full refund. And that refund will amount to an estimated $80 million, and it will all be our Wisconsin taxpayers’ money. (Scott Walker, of course, with his fresh $50,000 campaign cash from the roadbuilders cartel, has favors to repay, namely roads that carry rubbertired vehicles that burn petroleum.)

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