Killing the high-speed rail connection from Milwaukee to Madison is going to cost taxpayers $96 million, according to Gov. Jim Doyle.
According to release from Doyle’s office, the state has spent more than $14 million during the past six months preparing for high-speed rail.
Cancelling the project also will mean upgrades to the Amtrak Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago will no longer be eligible for federal assistance, and the state will have to pick up the tab, according to the release from Doyle’s office. That includes $18 million for the train shed at Milwaukee’s downtown Intermodal Station and $12 million for platform renovations at the Milwaukee Airport Station. It also includes $52 million for a facility to maintain new Hiawatha trains.
Gary Smith, president of C.D. Smith Construction Inc., Fond du Lac, said he has not heard a thing about changes in the train shed contract, which the contractor won Nov. 1.
“We have a contract,” Smith said Monday. “No one has told us to stop work.”
Last week, Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc., Plain, learned the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had put on hold a $28 million bridge project in Jefferson County that is part of the overall high-speed rail project. The contractor won that project Oct. 6.
Ken Voss, a lawyer with extensive experience in construction contract law and who is not affiliated with the project, said government contracts usually include a clause allowing for cancellation at the owner’s convenience, but killing a contract doesnít come free.
Typically, a contractor can bill for any actual costs — from making a bid to moving equipment to a site.
“The longer you wait,” Voss said, “the greater the costs.”
Doyle, in his press release, noted Wisconsin’s $823 million in federal aid was greater than any other state had received. But, according to Doyle’s release, if Gov.-elect Scott Walker opposes the project, the U.S. Department of Transportation will shift the money to another state.
Doyle noted federal officials will meet with Walker soon to apprise him of the repercussions of killing the project.
Late Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent a letter to Walker insisting the federal government will not reallocate $810 million earmarked for the Milwaukee to Madison high-speed rail project.
In the letter, LaHood told Walker the money could not be transferred for state highway projects. If Walker elects to not change his stance on high-speed rail in Wisconsin, LaHood said the U.S. Department of Transportation will use Wisconsin’s money elsewhere.
LaHood claimed to have commitments from 30 foreign rail manufacturers to relocate operations across the United States.
LaHood’s statement said the work will help rejuvenate the country’s industrial communities and spur job growth.
— Marie Rohde and Joe Lanane