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Home / Government / Milwaukee mayor offers angry response to death of high-speed rail

Milwaukee mayor offers angry response to death of high-speed rail

By Marie Rohde

A visibly angry Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett accused Gov.-elect Scott Walker of conducting ideological warfare” that led to the loss of $808 million that was to pay for high-speed rail in Wisconsin.

Barrett said the move will cost the state thousands of jobs.

“The real irony is that Wisconsin taxpayers will still have to pay $141 million for high-speed rail that will be in other states,” Barrett said at a press conference Thursday.

Thousands of construction jobs will be moved to California, Florida, Illinois and Washington, Barrett said. Those are the states that are getting the bulk of the money that had been allocated to Wisconsin.

“It’s a great day for California,” Barrett said. “California will get $624 million for high-speed rail. It will be a merry Christmas for thousands of construction workers in California.”

Wisconsin had been one of the big winners in the lottery for high-speed rail money, receiving an $810 million allocation, the largest of any state. All but $2 million has been redirected, Barrett noted. The $2 million will be for improvements on the rail line between Chicago and Milwaukee, he said.

The decision to reallocate the Wisconsin high-speed rail money came as no surprise. Walker, who defeated Barrett in the November gubernatorial election, campaigned hard against the project.

States applied for more than $50 billion in high-speed rail money, Barrett said. The goal in Wisconsin was to eventually connect Chicago to Minneapolis through Milwaukee and Madison.

“The worst-case scenario is that the high-speed rail will go around Wisconsin through Iowa City,” Barrett said.

He said high-speed rail has not always been a partisan issue. He said former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, had first raised the prospect while leading the state.

Barrett said he had not spoken with representatives of Talgo Inc., the Spanish-based manufacturer of train shells that moved its North American operation to Milwaukee in anticipation of the Milwaukee-to-Madison connection.

Earlier, Talgo officials said they were reassessing staying in Milwaukee.

Barrett also said the city had spent $5 million to $6 million as part of its effort to encourage high-speed rail but that some of that had been for improvements to Century City, the north side building where Talgo moved. Those site improvements would have occurred even without high-speed rail, he said.


  1. During the current decade, it is projected that global oil consumption will deplete traditional sources of relatively inexpensive petroleum, and fossil fuel production will have to shift to more costly, “unconventional” sources such as shale oils and tar sands. This will make airline and highway travel less affordable than we currently enjoy.

    Business travel in the Chicago/Milwaukee/Madison/LaCrosse/Rochester/Twin Cities will be particularly vulnerable to the wasteful inefficiency of short-hop commuter airlines.
    Unfortunately, the broader business community will not have access to fuel-efficient passenger rail due to Scott Walker’s myopic partisan pandering to oil and airline special interests.

    Kudos to the other states who understand that they must adapt their transportation infrastructure to the competitive challenges of the global economy in the 21st Century. The era of cheap oil is over. Sadly for Wisconsin, Scott Walker doesn’t grasp that.

  2. Willie
    Your choo choo also runs on deisel fuel, you need to factor this in . Any raise in fuel prices will also raise the cost of the train fare. The study completed in California in regards to rail showed there would be no reduction in emissions once the train exhaust was factored in and 1% or 2 % drop in traffic. Thats why rail never made sense the benefits are not there, not for the steep price tag that comes with it.
    If ever upgraded to electric it would require complete new infastructure, the work performed for the 800 million would scrapped nothing could be salveged, thus the state taxpayers picking up the billions of dollars price tag with no federal help.

  3. Troy,

    Your argument is so fundamentally flawed, I can’t believe the time I’m wasting to reply to it. Moving people by rail would still be more efficient than doing it by cars, even if each were a Prius with 5 passengers. Look around you on I94 next time and count how many cars and SUV’s you see with a single person in them. Look how often they scrub off energy to slow for the traffic in front of them. Look how often they step on the accellerator to get back up to speed. Are you serious?

  4. This issue has been most instructive. It has demonstrated so well why America is screwed. Both sides of the false two-party paradigm miss the mark, as they do on nearly every single issue. This is what happens when a nation’s political and social rationale is dominated by the Hegelian dialectic*. Most of you should look that* up.

    The truth of the matter is the State is broke. The State is broke because we got fat and lazy and wanted the State to do everything, including running the most expensive, expansive and intrusive Welfare and Warfare empires in the world. When you are broke, credit gets cut off and you live through a long period of austerity. Most people must declare bankruptcy when they are broke. This is shameful enough for an individual; for a nation, especially one with the historically unique birthright of America, this is nothing short of perhaps the greatest disaster of modern man.

    Train transportation is great. It works extremely well for freight. It can be a viable alternative for passenger travel in specific circumstances. People who dislike “choo choos” are either morons (like local radio personalities) or ***** to the road building lobby. It was a bad idea only because we are broke, and no one should be spending the money; especially our criminal federal government. The only winners here are the private banksters who own the FED and issue our debt money. We are their debt slaves.

  5. I love it!

    We’ll take the money, we need it. And we will use it well for high speed rail.


    A Californian.

    P.S.: This is what happens when you vote Republicans into office. Tax money from Wisconsin gets spent in other states, not in Wisconsin. Remember that the next time you’re in the voting booth.


  6. The argument from Chad seems more flawed than Tony’s. If all the people who support the train actually agree to give up driving their cars and do ride the train together, then it makes a little more sense. But the real world train will not be convenient. It won’t take you directly from your driveway to your workplace, and will not be waiting for you when you need it. And when you need to get somewhere during your work day, whether for business or errand, will the train be there to service you?

    Let’s pretend that the $800 million is free disposable federal money, we still can’t afford
    the annual cost of operation with the number of riders paying fares. So take these fed dollars to create an annual money sieve for years to come? If you trated this as a personal decision and these were your own personal $800 million, would you believe this to be a worthwhile investment?

    Why don’t the energy conscious people carpool more today? Does that seem inconvenient?

  7. Maybe if things were a little more inconvenient for us, the world would be a much better place. We’ve gotten too lazy to walk a block or two to a bus stop because its slightly inconvenient.

  8. Let’s not confuse convenience with laziness. I run, bike and exercise regularly. But in the business world, when a customer or coworker calls and needs you somewhere, you are expected to be there for them. Unfortunately a train, bus, bike or running shoes can rarely be considered as substitutes for your own car the next time your phone unexpectedly rings.

  9. Chad and Brian are right on. No one expects *everyone* to take this train. But even at basic ridership levels it’s actually more profitable than highways. It’ll be even more highly used once it gets to the Twin Cities, and once gas prices get to 5 or 6 dollars a gallon.

    Of course by the looks of the voters around here, I’m not sure most people are smart enough to understand that. I can see it now, drooling zombies in the street demanding we invade Iran to keep oil cheap before they’re willing to build a bargain of a train. That seriously scares the **** out of me.

  10. Sorry Doc, that train was no bargain. Trains are great to serve major population centers. Neither Madison nor Milwuakee qualify.

    $810 million was to upgrade about 72 miles for track to 110 mph HSR. To get from Chicago to Milwaukee adds 86 miles and then another 232 to get from Madison to Minneapolis. At $11.25 million/mi, who will pay the $3.6 Billion in today’s dollars to complete the project?

    By the way, a Prius is essentially a gasoline powered vehicle on the highway.

  11. “who will pay the $3.6 Billion in today’s dollars to complete the project?”

    The same people that pay billions and billions and billions to build and maintain all the roads and airports.

  12. Chad
    If you think my statements are flawed check out the train article in Newsweek, thats where I got the info. It should change your mind as well maybee ease the pain a bit. Newsweek is about one of the most left magazines out there, so dont scream its conservative propaganda.
    You need to put politics aside and look at the data like the article did.

  13. Sorry Abe, the half fast train would not, could not, replace the roadways. Money will always have to be spent on roadways because trains have limited access points. The construction of the train will not lower costs to build or maintain the roadways.

    We do not have enough money to properly maintain current necessary infrastructure, so my question remains, where does the EXTRA $3.6 billion come from to get it extended from Chicago to the Twin Cities? Then, if we need 5 times as much to construct it, it is logical that the operational deficit will be increased by 5 times. So once completed, instead of the $7.5 million annual deficit for the Milwaukee to Madison line we would be looking at $37.5 million annual deficit for the Chicago to Minneapolis line.

    This is nothing but a big pork sandwich that fortunately has been stopped.

  14. Nothing was stopped or saved… it simply moved. Those other states will now use the 90% from the feds to offset operation like we could have. So essentially we are paying to build AND operate rail in other states becuase certain people were too stupid to realize that was the end game. I can’t believe after all this time and discussion you haven’t grasped this simple concept. Even somebody like Rep. Petri realizes how mornoic this whole decision was, but can’t speak out against a fellow Republican.

  15. I seem to be the only one who gets this, but …

    Impeachment-Elect Scott Walker wasn’t the governor-in-charge when the project was killed. It was Jim Doyle who stopped development of the HSR Milwaukee-Madison leg, not Concrete Scott. Jim Doyle had the money, Jim Doyle had the backing of Ray LaHood, and Jim Doyle had the signed contracts.

    And it was Jim Doyle who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Of course, I seem to be alone in bringing out this little fact, so it appears history will not blame Jim Doyle, it will forever blame Concrete Scott instead, just one reason that Concrete Scott will be a one-termer, watch and see.

  16. Fred-

    California needs the money because the liberals have spent that state into fiscal oblivion. No so-called “high-speed rail” is going to save them. I can’t wait to see how huge the cost overruns get to be by the time this ridiculous boondoggle is complete. But of course, the libs will have conveniently forgotten all of that by that point.

    The tone of these unending stories are laughable; often the tenor is “this is bad because it makes Wisconsin look like a backwater place”. Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Mayor “Diamond Joe” Quimby says to the monorail hustler: “We’re twice as smart as those boobs over in Shelbyville. Just show us your plan and we’ll vote for it!”

    Thankfully “Diamond Jim” Doyle is on his way out and a grown-up is taking over, and thank God he’s keeping his campaign promise!

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