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Feds may not help pay for Intermodal train station upgrades

A rendering of Milwaukee's Intermodal Station shows a new train shed. The project -- awarded to C.D. Smith in November -- may be in jeopardy after the state's high-speed rail project hit a dead end on Thursday. (Rendering courtesy of WisDOT)

By Marie Rohde

Federal money to upgrade Milwaukee’s downtown Intermodal Station may be unavailable even though some improvements are needed to comply with federal and state laws requiring access for people with disabilities.

C.D. Smith Construction Inc., Fond du Lac, was awarded an $18 million contract Nov. 1 to do work required under federal law. While Gary Smith, company president, was optimistic earlier, he is now less certain.

“The state has not sent us an executed contract,” Smith said. “We don’t really know what is going on.”

The project was to begin in the spring, take a year to complete and employ 100 workers, Smith said.

“Some people tell us it’s not going anywhere; others tell us of course it’s going to go,” he said.

The same uncertainty is evident at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Numerous calls to the department were not returned over the course of two days.

A receptionist with the department’s press office referred a reporter to Alyssa Macy, a spokeswoman for the state’s ill-fated high speed rail project.

“All I can do is send you right back to DOT,” Macy said. “I can’t answer those questions because I don’t know what’s going on. I understand your frustration, trust me. We’re in the same boat.”

James Spence (left) and Rufus Dotson, workers at Talgo Inc.'s Milwaukee plant, set up the interior of a train car Friday. A Talgo spokeswoman said that with the federal government's decision to reallocate millions of dollars scheduled to help pay for high-speed rail in Wisconsin, the company would close its Milwaukee manufacturing operation in 2012. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Talgo Inc., the company that makes high-speed trains in Milwaukee, said the company would keep a small facility in Milwaukee open to maintain trains.

Wisconsin was allocated $810 million in federal money for the high-speed rail project, but U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last week that most of Wisconsin’s share would be reallocated to other states.

Because of the federal government’s decision to reallocate Wisconsin’s money, Talgo’s Milwaukee manufacturing plant will remain open only through the spring of 2012, said Nora Friend, the spokeswoman.

Part of Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s campaign targeted the high-speed rail project as unnecessary and a burden to taxpayers.

Walker did not respond to questions about the future of the Intermodal Station.

Even though federal money for the high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison is mostly gone, plans to replace the train shed, modify the platform and make other improvements at Milwaukee’s Intermodal Station are necessary to come into compliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act and other related state standards, according to officials.

The shed is where the trains that run between Chicago and Milwaukee will be parked and maintained.

Vince Moschella, a deputy city attorney who has reviewed contracts between the state and federal government, said he looked narrowly at the question of whether the city could sue the state or federal government to force completion of the project.

“There is nothing in the agreements between the state and the federal governments to compel either to pay for that work,” Moschella said.

Initially, a statement attributed to the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated the improvements to the Intermodal Station were not a part of the high-speed rail grant but the train shed would be paid for in part by a U.S. Transit Administration grant. But that money fell through because the state did not approve a matching grant, according to the statement.

However, Moschella said the records he examined showed that the Intermodal Station improvements were added to the grant for the high-speed rail connection between Milwaukee and Madison.

10 comments

  1. Absolutely disgusting. Does Scott Walker like strip malls? Does he want us to all find jobs at the Olive Garden? What part of the future of transportation does he not understand??? I have no problem saving money by cutting government, but this train had NOTHING to do with it. Scott turned it all into a bizarre political circus because he’s too uneducated to understand why inter-city rail is the future. Scott just F***ed Wisconsin for a generation. Shame, shame, shame!

  2. Scott Walker = Job Killer (and he hasn’t even been in office for one day yet)!

  3. Dr. Scott and MicahR2001, time to grow up. It’s about time that states stop our narcissistic, childlike need to have our politicians steal Federal money from other’s in the country under the guise of bringng home the bacon to Wisconsin. When all the other 49 states do the same thing, we have Federal structual defecits. Scott Walker could be the father figure for you that never spanked you. Grow up children. It’s not too late to pay attention to WISN AM 1130. We want to push back the frontiers of ignorance.
    You haven’t the clue on what creates jobs and prevents jobs from leaving our state.

  4. Well I don’t even know what to say, Scott Walker is killing Wisconsin. We are already behind in everything else. I currently live in beautiful Ozaukee County and am planning on moving to lake county in the next year along with a lot of my neighbors. We can’t take this anymore we need a state that is productive.

  5. Jim Doyle and WisDOT backed down on rail the minute Walker was elected. We had two months to get the projects rolling before Walker was to be ordained – er, inaugurated.

  6. Hey Chuck, how many people to you employ? What is your business experience? Idiots like Walker and Sykes have never been in the real world and don’t understand the basic concept that not spending ANY money leads to not MAKING any money. Clowns.

  7. All forms of infrastructure require public investment whether it’s highways, bridges or sewers, etc. Highway construction is rarely self-funded entirely through gas-taxes as bonds (= borrow $$) are often issued to help pay for road projects.Turning the federal $$ away to be spent in another state does nothing to help the federal deficit (if someone can explain how it does, please explain in detail). Infrastructure investment helps spur other private development that benefits from those resources.

  8. Chuck? Did you seriously suggest listening to AM radio? Do you know what Wisconsin ranks near the bottom of the list of states that get money back from our tax dollars spent? We are the ones subsidizing Alaska and Texas. Total comedy in my opinion that people think we’re asking for “handouts”. More importantly, this train wouldn’t be a handout it would be an INVESTMENT that PAYS dividends…. good lord.

  9. 1.) Dr Scott, when would this train “Pay” dividends? The answer is never.
    2.) ACivilEng, let me ask you this: Where is the first place you install a catch basin? At the low point, correct, as that is the place that needs it most. Wisconsin is hardly the place that needs funds for a high speed train the most. Since the Democrats seem hell bent on spending all the pork money, let them at least do it where the need is the greatest. Major population centers need mass transit more than we do and it might actually get used.
    3.) Ms Jeffries, Jim Doyle flip flopped on his approach to HSR as it became apparent that Scott Walker would be elected by the people of Wisconsin. His first reaction was to pull the infamous weekend agreement signing. Remember that??? It was several days after the election, and the reports that Gov. Elect Scott Walker had talked with Gov. Chris Christie on how to stop such projects, that Doyle finally saw that he was fighting a loosing battle. Given that Doyle was seen as shady for the weekend agreement signing and knowing he could do nothing to keep the train alive, it made it easy for him to “defer” to Mr. Walker. Frankly it did not matter if he did or not. Doyle thought he would save whatever political clout he had left to “rush” to complete the state union agreements before his end of reign. Quid pro quo.

  10. Irwin Fletcher – I agree on the point of the catch basins. However, it sounds like you don’t believe that Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison and the Twin Cities are major population centers within the Midwest. “Need” in my opinion is often subjective, but it’s very interesting that the “need” for the high speed rail was analyzed a long time ago and was part of a long-range vision for the Midwest/Nation created almost 20 years ago and was bought into by every administration since then (Republican and Democrat) and interestingly enough our Gov-elect when he was a member of the legislature. While I don’t believe that it is a holy grail for job creation, all one has to do is follow where development occurs, and that is often times very close to major transportation corridors. There’s no question that new businesses would have recognized the potential benefit of being located in the middle of major population centers with easy transportation of their sales and technical staff to all…….

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