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Has competitive bidding been run over by high-speed rail?

By Marie Rohde

Gee, the contractors who were supposed to be working on the high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison have been awfully quiet about the work being put on hold in the post-election hullabaloo.

Perhaps this comment on the site attributed to Scott Walker, the governor-elect who adamantly opposes high-speed rail, might explain things:

“(Walker) predicted the Wisconsin vendors selected for the train project would be able to help the new administration on other transportation needs, and the new GOP majorities in the Assembly would help in his effort to stop the project.”

But what about competitive bidding? Can the state ignore the long-established public policy by rewarding cooperative contractors willing to get involved in politics?

Does this kind of statement foretell a continuation of the kind of much-criticized backroom dealing that Gov. Jim Doyle engaged in when he signed contracts intended to lock down the $810 million high-speed rail project days before the election?

One Democratic insider speculated that Doyle’s decision to put the contracts on hold Wednesday was an effort to lob the ball into the court of the contractors who, for the most part, supported Walker’s bid for governor.

The idea was that they would put the screws to the state’s new top leader.

Meanwhile, the move caught Walker and his opponent in the gubernatorial race, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by surprise. Neither man was able Thursday to talk to Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi about the decision before or after the news broke.

Few comments were coming from the contract community. Fred Lueck, a vice-president of Edward Kraemers & Sons, issued this statement:

“As a company that prides itself in working cooperatively with the state, we look forward to working out any details with the current and new administration.”


Marie Rohde is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. She also prides herself in “working cooperatively” with the state.

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