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Talgo project rolls on despite rail debate

Veit Environmental Inc., Milwaukee, was the lowest of five bidders for brownfield remediation work at the former Tower Automotive site (above) in Milwaukee. Talgo America Inc., a Spanish train set maker, has plans to operate its U.S. high-speed passenger rail manufacturing and assembly plant at the site. (File photo)

Veit Environmental Inc., Milwaukee, was the lowest of five bidders for brownfield remediation work at the former Tower Automotive site (above) in Milwaukee. Talgo America Inc., a Spanish train set maker, has plans to operate its U.S. high-speed passenger rail manufacturing and assembly plant at the site. (File photo)

By Scott Carlson
Special to The Daily Reporter

Milwaukee is on track with the remediation of an industrial site for a Spanish train manufacturer despite threats from gubernatorial candidates that they would kill the state’s high-speed rail project.

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee on Tuesday reported Veit Environmental Inc., Milwaukee, was the apparent lowest of five bidders to take on brownfield remediation at the former Tower Automotive site. That work is part of a project that would let Talgo Inc. establish its high-speed train factory in Milwaukee.

Veit’s bid was $1.66 million, less than the city engineering department’s estimate of $2.4 million.

Redevelopment Authority spokesman Jeff Fleming said the Veit bid is under review to make sure it fully conforms with the agency’s request for proposals.

(Image courtesy of the Redevelopment Authority of the city of Milwaukee)

(Image courtesy of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee)

The remediation project will cover grading, excavation and preliminary rail work on what the city calls Area E, one of several parcels that is part of the 30-acre site near 28th and Townsend streets.

Altogether, Milwaukee has committed more than $16 million to buy, clean and redevelop the Tower Automotive site through tax-incremental financing. That includes $6 million to renovate a 300,000-square-foot building at the Tower Automotive site for Talgo.

This spring, Talgo America Inc. reported plans to operate its U.S. high-speed passenger rail manufacturing and assembly plant at the former Tower Automotive site, creating 125 direct jobs in Wisconsin and generating another 450 indirect jobs through vendors throughout the Midwest.

Talgo’s announcement came after Wisconsin reported in January it is getting $823 million in federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build high-speed rail service to connect its centers of commerce. The money includes $810 million to build high-speed passenger rail service between Milwaukee and Madison.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Mark Neumann and Scott Walker have criticized using federal stimulus money for high-speed trains.

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

On his campaign website, Neumann said, if elected, he would stop the Milwaukee to Madison high-speed rail line “immediately — in its tracks.”

Walker said Tuesday he’s not opposed to Talgo coming to Milwaukee.

“If they can make a good operation here, that certainly would be fine,” he said.

However, Walker said, he is against using federal stimulus money to pay for high-speed transit because it would cost the state $10 million in annual operating costs, money Wisconsin doesn’t have with the current budget crisis.

“My suggestion is that we work with our congressional delegation and have them reprogram the $800 million and use it for other bridge and road projects,” Walker said.

But Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman said Tuesday he’s not worried about the Republican candidates’ criticism and said they can’t derail the Talgo project.

“We have a lease with Talgo,” Bauman said. “Talgo is obligated to take the space and pay the rent.
“I don’t think the Republicans will interfere with that one iota.”

Bauman also said Talgo has purchase orders from Oregon and Wisconsin to build a combined four sets of trains. In February, the Oregon Department of Transportation reported it had negotiated to buy two new passenger trains from Talgo America for $36.6 million with the trains to be manufactured in the company’s future Milwaukee plant.

Meanwhile, Bauman said, he doesn’t think Wisconsin can or will back out on its more than $800 million in federal money for high-speed transit.

“If the Republicans want to throw that away, they can,” he said. “The next governor has two options: Let the project proceed or repay the federal government the $800 million for the project.

“Despite all this hyperbole and hysterical talk by these two candidates, this railroad is going to get built.”

Walker said it would take congressional approval to change the appropriation, but there is precedence for such reversal. He said that in the late 1990s the state got Congress to reallocate a $200 million appropriation in transportation-related projects.

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9 comments

  1. Say No to trains in Wisconsin. Once again……. When un-informed voters elect corrupt Democrat politicians like Jim Doyle, we get poor government, poor decisions, lack of accountability, graft, un-wise and wasteful spending. The bad guys funnel tax dollars to Jim Doyle’s friends as “payback”. Why did Doyle and the corrupt Democrats welcome a Spanish company? Why is the deal getting rammed through? (Dummies for Democrats). Why did Jim Doyle steal dollars from the transportation fund during his regime? Where did the money go?

  2. Yes, *let’s* talk about shady politics, and let’s talk serious money while we’re at it.

    “Concrete Scott” Walker quietly flew down to Orlando early this year to pick up a cool $50,000 (estimated, but probably accurate) campaign cash at a closed meeting of the hugely-powerful roadbuilder cartel. Roadbuilders earn money when there are more roads with more vehicles burning more oil. Concrete Scott admits he would do what he could to shut down all progress on the already-approved HSR — which is one of those really-rare 100%-fully-funded projects, the first leg on the Chicago-Twin Cities HSR line.

    If Concrete Scott Walker was able to pull that off, Wisconsin would have to pay back every dollar heretofore spent on the project. And by November that would amount to about $80 million right out of our state treasury.

    Other states are watching this Punch and Judy show (guess who’s pulling the strings), hoping to glom onto that $800 million rail money, and if Walker was able to destroy the long-dreamed-of, long-promised HSR project here with all its related jobs, we still lose. Because by law Wisconsin taxpayers would then have to replace and repay every cent of that $80 million for some other state to build its rail line at our expense.

    I’ve said all this here before. Am I getting through to you now?

  3. Thank you Karen, well said.

    So many people arguing against this project just don’t get the loopholes that would need to be jumped through to use the money (idiotically) for roads. It’s federal money, allocated for high speed rail projects…period.

    I just love how such a large portion of people in this state don’t bat an eye when we’re spending billions of dollars the past fews years for the Marquette, I-94 expansion and soon the Zoo Interchange, but when we get federal money for a PROGRESSIVE mode of transportation there’s an uproar of disapproval. It’s just rediculous.

  4. Train, train, go away, don’t come back another day… Why some people have such a love affair with an inflexible, expensive mode of transportation is beyond me. Trains do have their place, however, Wisconsin is not one of them. No where do the supporters of trains talk about how they’ll fund the operating budget once the train is built. The money the state receives from taxpayers is shrinking, yet the Democrats continue pursuing budget smashers like these trains. Alderman Bauman, quoted in the article, says the Republican candidates talk is hysterical. What’s hysterical is continuing with this project knowing the odds are great that Walker or Neuman will be the next Governor. If these politicians pushing this project were responsible, why don’t they put the project on hold until after the election? Let the electorate speak on whether Wisconsinites want a leader willing to spend 800 million on trains that will serve a tiny, tiny fraction of our population. (Plus the 10 mil per year every year after that.) The 800 million isn’t free cash that shot out of some politicians rear end, it comes from us taxpayers. It’s that line that says “Federal Withholding” on your check stub. If we’re going to spend the money (and that’s a whole other debatable topic) spend it on something that will help the greater majority. Fix the roads and bridges, provide better bus service. Just don’t blow millions (billions as the years add up) on trains. And finally, thanks Governor for hiring a foreign company to build trains vs. local companies such as Super Steel. Way to support our jobs that are already here!

  5. Thank you Jerad, you help make my point…

    From your response “I just love how such a large portion of people in this state don’t bat an eye when we’re spending billions of dollars the past fews years for the Marquette, I-94 expansion and soon the Zoo Interchange, but when we get federal money for a PROGRESSIVE mode of transportation there’s an uproar of disapproval. It’s just rediculous.”

    Lets break it down:
    “such a large portion of people” Yes, that means the majority of Wisconsinites.
    “federal money” Yes, that’s OUR money.
    “rebuilding the Marquette, I-94 expansion” Jerad, how many people, how many products are transported and how much business is conducted via these vital transportation hubs? Compare that to what the train will accomplish and explain how economically it makes sense.
    “but when we… progressive mode of transportation… uproar of disapproval” Where do I start? What’s progressive about spending millions / billions of dollars on a train when the simple math tells you that cost per individual using each mode (road vs train) is exponentially higher for the train than it is the road.
    “It’s just rediculous” Thanks, you’ve made my point. Per your logic it’s rediculous that the majority of Wisconsinites don’t want to spend a hugely disproportionate amount of money on something used by so few. Now, what’s rediculous I ask? hmmm…..

  6. Way to go Steve! A little more emphasis on where federal money comes from can’t hurt though. It’s our money. One more time for those of you who are confused: It’s our money. If the government wasn’t trying to build “high speed” trains that are projected to average 79 mph between Milwaukee and Madison, that money would stay in our pockets for us to spend as we see fit. We could all do more projects around the house, buy a new car, save for college and retirement or maybe even do something wild like know we have a little extra money in the bank should something catastrophic occur. I know this is radical thinking but with enough time and discussion, it just may catch on.

    It should be hammered into everyone that neither the state nor federal governments have their own money. They get every dollar they spend by taking a portion of every dollar you earn or spend to use to give these fabulous “free” things back to you and hire more people to come up with these brilliant ideas as well as add more regulations for you to follow.

    For those of you confused by what this has to do with your beloved train, it all leads to the fact that we give the government too much money to “give” us these unwanted money pits. We can drive to anywhere in Madison just as fast as the “high speed” train will get us there. In a car we can park at our destination and not have to search out cabs, buses or alternate transportation once we get to the train station.

    Why doesn’t Wisconsin see the light and get high speed train and mass transit like Europe and the largest cities in America? It’s because we don’t have the population, the density, the need or the mindset to use them. Just because you can build it doesn’t mean it will get used. People have to need or want to use it before it will get used. Since the majority of Wisconsities don’t need or want it, the use should be very predictable.

    For those of you who fel we should spend $800M because we’ve already spent $80M, (on what I still don’t know) your point makes no sense against this one: If we don’t build it, we save $720M.

  7. Brad and Steve said “it’s our money”. Yes, it is, but don’t forget it’s also the money from all the other 49 states.

    The HSR project is being paid for in full by the federal government, a rare occurence indeed.

    Therefore it’s the whole country’s money, and to that I say: about time, since Wisconsin has been paying for every other state’s rail lines for decades without one peep of protest from anyone here in Wisconsin. None that I’ve ever heard or read, anyway.

    And now all the other 49 states finally get a chance to pitch in for *our* new HSR line.

  8. The previous writers “Steve J” and “Brad” have been misinformed on some issues, and may not be aware of the Big Picture in others. In both cases, though, they write like this whole rail concept is brand-new and untried, when actually Wisconsin is now the last remaining American population center without adequate rail service.

    The Madison HSR line will do 125 MPH upon completion, and it’s only one small leg of the massive Midwestern High-Speed Rail Initiative, and all surveys show massive public support for rail, including the one here this week on the Daily Reporter.

    (Thanks for the chuckle on “saving $720 million” by paying $80 million back to Washington, but in reality that $810 million Wisconsin got was from all the 50 states, and the $80 million we’ll be forced to pay should Scott Walker or Mark Neumann win and then play their anti-rail/pro-Big Oil party line in November *will* be entirely out of Wisconsin’s pockets.)

    And then Brad said Wisconsin doesn’t have the population density for rail. I subscribe to a few “On this day in history” lists, and on July 14, 2006 “Rail-Runner” commuter service began in Albuquerque NM. New Mexico became the 18th state to have commuter rail. The initial line is 9 miles long and has 3 stations. The hope is to extend it over a hundred miles from Santa Fe to Belen.

  9. “The hope is to extend it over a hundred miles from Santa Fe to Belen.”

    Karren. It’s now doing that. Morning and evening trains are jammed, midday trains one/half to one/third — but with folks getting on off along entire route so load factor is probably higher than it appears. What is interesting is to see the mass of cars at the end-point park and ride lots. Paved lots and gravel overflow lots are full and cars are up and down the adjacent streets. And the cars are mostly higher end luxury sedans, surban assault vehicles and ultimate driving machines, to include Z3s and Z4s.

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