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.”
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.