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Train supporters lament loss of federal money

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Travelers will have to keep making the 80-mile trip between Madison and Milwaukee by road for the foreseeable future. And Democrats are livid about it.

President Barack Obama’s administration announced Thursday it will shift $810 million in federal stimulus dollars meant for a high-speed rail line between Wisconsin’s capital and largest city to other states, officially ending months of debate. The administration also pulled $385 million from Ohio that would have gone to create passenger rail in that state.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a statement saying the administration stripped the two states of the money because incoming Republican governors opposed the projects.

The move marks a muted victory for Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker, who promised to kill the project because it was too expensive. He had urged Obama to shift the money from rail to the state’s roads, but that isn’t going to happen.

Wisconsin will still get $2 million to upgrade passenger rail service between Milwaukee and Chicago, but the rest of the nearly $1.2 billion meant for Wisconsin and Ohio will go to rail projects across more than a dozen other states.

Democrats had hailed the project, saying it would be a key step toward linking Chicago and the Twin Cities by rail and stimulating Wisconsin’s economy. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has said building the line would have created about 5,500 jobs. He has warned that stopping the project will result in the immediate loss of more than 400 jobs and cost the state the more than $14 million it has already spent on the line.

“I obviously am deeply saddened to see us take a major step backward,” Doyle said in a statement. “Now we are moving from being the leader, to the back of the line.”

Walker touted himself as a job creator on the campaign trail, but has said he wasn’t interested in train construction jobs because the state needs sustainable positions created outside of government. He also objected to the estimated $7.5 million it would cost the state to run the line, even though Doyle has said the federal government would have probably picked up most of the cost.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie didn’t immediately return messages Thursday afternoon.

Jodi Tabak, a spokeswoman for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a train supporter who lost to Walker in the gubernatorial race in November, had no immediate comment. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz planned a news conference later Thursday afternoon.

Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison, Inc., which promotes development in Madison, called the loss of the money “extremely disappointing.”

“Oh, my gosh. I usually don’t cry,” she said. “What did we accomplish here? Nothing in Wisconsin. We become the losers.”

State Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, issued a statement saying she was outraged.

“This is nothing short of economic suicide,” she said. “Before even measuring the curtains for his future office, Governor-elect Walker pulled the trigger on killing this project, putting an end to good jobs for the citizens he will soon represent.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


  1. All of the impatient spoiled brat Americans expecting the Democratic leadership to repair eight years of tyrannical Bush politics in two years are responsible for the eventual destruction of this state. Your votes cast in frustration, or for pro-life (which hasn’t gained significant political support no matter who is in office), or becuase you mindlessly listened to TV ads, or because your church told you to, are destroying the opportunity for billions of dollars to ignite Wisconsin’s economy, create jobs, and have a major economic boom along a rail line from Chicago to Minneapolis – I hope you suffer the most with the recent backward thinking legislation coming from your short sighted Republican leaders.

  2. Lets pretend for a minute here that the train actually went through. This is what would happen. You would drive your car to the train station in Madison (for the purpose of this situation lets say this takes 20 min). Then you would get on the train, pay the $25 one way ticket price (provided you the train is leaving right when you get on you should be to Milwaukee in 60 min). When you get to Milwaukee you still have 2 miles to go to your destination (its a blizzard or rainstorm depending on the season so you are not going to walk and decide to rent a cab, add another $10 to your trip and another 15 min). You would finally arrive at your destination after 1 hour and 35 minutes and would only have spent $35 so far (this is not including the gas in your car to get to the train station. If you double the costs to include the return trip you have spent $70 and 3 hours and 10 minutes of total travel time. If you would have taken a car this is how the calculation would go: 75 miles from Madison to Milwaukee at 15 mi/gal (most cars get much better than this) x $3/gal = $15. Time it takes to drive from madison to milwaukee 1 hour and 20 minutes. Double this for the return trip and you have spent $30 and 2 hours and 40 minutes of your day. Don’t forget you won’t have to worry about the taxi once you get to Milwaukee anymore. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure you which it the better option. Why should we pay taxes to subsidize a train that doesn’t make any sense? Wisconsin does not have the money for this (the Federal Government doesn’t either but for some reason they think they do). Good job Walker.

  3. Yep, it’s all Bush’s fault. Spare me. Even Obama has dialed back that tired lament.

    It did not take long to see the Obamanation that was elected in 2008 had us on a high speed rail to becoming Greece.

    Major economic boom? More like bust.

  4. Nice bit of non-bias reporting here. Let’s disect the start of this fine piece.
    1.-“Travelers”…Yeah, I can just picture all the boats, snowmobiles, bicycles, kayaks and blaze orange hunting gear that simply won’t be able to take the train now. “Travelers” use cars…their own cars, not train cars. This train was going to be ridden by a handful of comuters.
    2.-“Democrats livid”…you mean the democrats that have driven this state to the brink of bankruptcy, overseen the exodus of numerous businesses and thousands of jobs to more business-friendly states, the ones that the voters of this state in historic, epic proportion, threw out on their rears, those democrats?…of course they’re livid!…who cares if they’re livid? They’re angry, bitter and are now reaping the rewards of governing against the will of the people.
    3.-‘ Obama will shift the money to somewhere else’. Before you let that further enrage you, just remember, it’s not that simple. By the time he attempts this, there will be a new Congress in DC as well. They must approve that switch in fund appropriations, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they do not approve it, but rather apply the funds for deficit reduction.

    I’m not one to gloat. I would simply say, that you ought to re-read comments made by the train supporters after the Ray Lahood, ‘Wisconsin is getting the train whether they like it or not’ statement, and simply apply your comments, in reverse, to yourselves.
    Merry Christmas!

  5. Stop blaming Concrete Scott Walker for rerouting the High Speed Rail elsewhere and giving our $810 million and all the related jobs and benefits therewith to the rest of the nation outside the state.

    Concrete Scott didn’t kill the project at all. He didn’t have to.

    Said Jim Doyle, the Governor of Wisconsin, the state with the official motto of “Forward”:
    “I obviously am deeply saddened to see us take a major step backward. Now we are moving from being the leader, to the back of the line.” as Doyle and his WisDot appointees suddenly and arbitarily halted the work of years as soon as Concrete Scott got elected, and all this happened a month before Concrete Scott was even ordained … er, I mean inaugurated.

    “Forward”, indeed.


    ;“I obviously am deeply saddened to see us take a major step backward, Now we are moving from being the leader, to the back of the line.”

  6. Karen jeffries
    what do you care karen you dont even live in the state.
    a quick google will show you post in 11 other states in regards to rail services.
    Its a done deal now , adios Karen, no more need for you to use up bandwidth in Wisconsin.

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