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.