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Watertown an island of high-speed rail discontent

At least one Wisconsin public official stills supports high-speed rail.

Watertown Mayor Ron Krueger said Tuesday it would be “short-sighted” for Wisconsin to pull the plug on proposed high-speed rail service from Milwaukee to Madison. Both Watertown and Brookfield are scheduled to include stations along the line, although Brookfield city officials said the project’s future is in doubt.

Watertown, on the other hand, already has scouted out property for the proposed station, according to Krueger. There are also plans, he said, to change boundaries of an existing tax incremental finance district to help cover project expenses.

A letter sent Wednesday morning to Gov.-elect Scott Walker by Watertown officials states: “85 percent of the Watertown business community has staked support in the project.”

Watertown residents may not be as enthusiastic after petitioning against the station in September. Enough signatures were collected to adopt a non-binding referendum asking local voters if they favor the project.

The grassroots effort did not occur in time for November’s election, but the question will be on April’s ballot.

“By that time, if high-speed rail is still alive, moving forward and has the blessings of Governor Walker, I don’t think it would have any problem sailing through,” Krueger said. “If the trains are going through Watertown, I think most people would want it to stop here.”

Krueger said the city will not dedicate any more money until the station’s future is certain. But given Walker’s back-and-forth exchanges with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, an answer may not be known until long after the Milwaukee County executive takes office.

Joe Lanane is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. He looks forward to the day he can step out of his car and arrive at the Watertown high-speed rail station.

14 comments

  1. As a resident of Watertown for 16 years, I have watched this city grow in population–with little to no growth in substantial business. What this tells me is that a large portion of our population commutes, most likely to the Madison or Milwaukee areas (I am a daily commuter to Madison myself). I know that I was not approached by Mr. Kaliebe to sign any petition, and neither were my neighbors. Mayor Krueger has my full support and backing in his continued backing of HSR, and the benefit it will provide to Watertown. Don’t back down, Ron!!!

  2. Hello

    We are in the middle of the great recession. We need jobs not a lecture on the New Right’s ideology. I want a job and to be working! Looking for work and being demonized by the party that begins with an ‘R’ for looking and applying is not true. 7.2 Million is a drop in the bucket compared to WisDOT’s 3.2 Billion Dollar budget. when ridership picks up you will not even need that. I am a former railroad/Amtrak Conductor. I know the power of dedicated commuter rail. I am with Engineer Chick. You go girl! :^) HighBall Milwaukee to Madison!!!

    David from Milwaukee

  3. David

    The recession ended , your pal Obama worked those numbers until he found a formula that would stick, kinda like the train figures that you refuse to question. I am sorry your not working as a conductor , but its proof positive that rail cannot sustain itself, guess the power of commuter rail cant keep you employed.

    Engineer Chick
    Your ok with other people kicking in over 800 million so residents of these three cities can commute to work, not to mention the yearly costs state residents will be forced to pay so your life is richer.

    Socialism is great until you run out of other peoples money.

  4. This leg of the project (Madison to Milwaukee) is only part of a high-speed rail network that spans the entire Midwest with other similar networks being built nationwide. When you refer to it as a commuter line you are either being dishonest or do not understand the issue you oppose.

  5. Troy

    I’ve kicked in billions of dollars to rebuild the Marquette Interchange (which I never use), the expansion of US 41 (which I never use), and eventually the expansion of IH 39 from Illionois to Madison (which, again, I never use). As a transportation engineer, I know what future planning of our systems is all about (DOT’s across the nation don’t put together 30-year vision plans because it’s fun). I also understand how the re-building of the rail lines between Watertown and Madison will greatly improve the movement of freight (the track system is so poor in this segment that trains cannot travel at speeds higher than 25 mph). Rome wasn’t built in a day (civil engineering humor)…but in the long term I believe Wisconsin will be kicking itself for not doing this.

    You don’t know me, but “socialist” is not the first term people who do would use to describe me. I am very visionary though…

  6. Troy, considering I pay north fo $200k in taxes a year, I consider this money as “MY” money, not “other people’s”. I’m certainly no socialist, but nice try. As far as I know, you are one of the 47% in this country that don’t pay any fed taxes once deductions are taken into account. Just because YOU don’t want or use this train does not mean it is a bad idea. The Chambers and business leaders in LaCrosse, Madison, and Watertown all strongly support this project… I suppose they are socialists too? LOL.

  7. I think we should just abandon HWY 45 to pay for this rail… it is basically redudant to have both 45 and 41 and I don’t know anybody from West Bend. Screw them.

  8. Abe
    Wow must be big money in making sausage, I am patiently waiting for a sodium free product. Riding the train would be fun, a novelty, but thats an expensive toy. Commuter rail makes sense in more populated regions. If gas was $5 a gallon it would still be cheaper for me to drive and faster and as my own schedule dictates.

    Eng Chick

    Who will be responsible for the cost over runs ? I dont think you can build this thing for 800 million. Like the tunnel project in Jersey the state residents cough up the change orders.
    Who will pay for the added spur from the airport to M. Terrace, this was not included in the initial cost and could tack on 100 million alone.

    As this is all government cash why not bid the projects , including the train cars.

    The cash is for passenger rail not freight rail if we could spend it on freight rail then we could also spend it on highways.

    In the future yes you could upgrade to freight rail but that would require an entire new system and that cost would be a state burden.

  9. There is NO way driving from Madison or Watertown to Chicago or Minny is cheaper by car… NO WAY. Start at 40 or 50 cents a mile and start adding parking/tolls/etc. Not to mention I don’t know anybody who would rather operate a car then sit and ride a train…. especially in winter conditions.

    And this isn’t really a “commuter” rail… though I suppose it could be used for that. The fact people generally don’t take planes to work everyday doesn’t mean we scrap airports, does it?

  10. Abe
    Newsweek has a great article out called high speed pork, I encourage everyone to read this. Dont be surprised if the feds put the brakes on this nation wide when the new government sits.

  11. According to records maintained by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Walker got $84,793 from road builders between January of 2009 and August of 2010. There’s surely a lot more that came his way between August and the election, which is still to be reported.

    Plus, the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association in the same month that Walker flew off to their Florida convention gave the national Republican Governors Association $25,000 to help sponsor TV ads that supported Walker for governor.

    The $84,793 to Walker, incidentally, was nearly half of the $188,423 that the highway lobby contributed to all Wisconsin candidates this past election cycle.

  12. Sorry Abe,

    If the train is not used as a commuter vehicle (single person) then a an automobile is more economical. If I drive my family of 4 to Chigaco I can do it much less expensively than driving to the depot, paying parking, paying for 4 tickets and paying for a cab or other transportation on the other end.

    I agree that it is “nice” to not have to drive, but I would deem that a luxury.

  13. You have a wife and kids and you’re trying to lecture us on wasteful spending?!

    If you are deeming the train a luxury, then I guess I can deem flying a luxury…. scrap the airport! Sports? Luxury… Bye Miller Park? Entertainment? Luxury… bye parks. Arts and culture? Luxury…. see you museums and Performing Arts Center. Etc.

  14. If we actually believe the words “we are building a high speed rail network that will lead from Chicago to MN”, the currently operating Milwaukee-Chicago segment should be upgraded to HSR first, before we contemplate passenger rail to Madison. If the upgraded Milwaukee-Chicago HSR segment significantly increases ridership, we should build the Madison HSR segment. I regularly ride the Milwaukee- Chicago train and travel Milwaukee to Madison in my car. It is cheap, easy and fast to conduct business in Madison by way of a car; it is challenging to do the same in Chicago.

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