Protesters Blast Wisconsin's Refusal of Rail Money

Protesters in Wisconsin are trying to reverse governor-elect Scott Walker's opposition to stimulus-funding for high speed rail projects -- $810 million that the government would have paid the state.

"Based on Walker's stand, the U.S. Department of Transportation last week withdrew an $810 million grant that would have paid for the 110-mph line connecting Milwaukee and Madison. The next day, Spanish-owned Talgo Inc. announced it would shut down its Milwaukee train manufacturing operations in 2012, leaving only a maintenance base for the two trains it is building for Amtrak's existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line.

Speaking at a rally in the Milwaukee City Hall rotunda, Sheila Cochran, secretary-treasurer of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, lambasted Walker's claim that the federal decision was a victory, saying, "I don't know how you declare victory when you turn back $810 million" that would have helped create thousands of jobs."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barnett joined others in the city to condemn the refusal of funds.

Full Story: 100 rally to protest Walker's rejection of rail money



Irvin Dawid's picture

Rejecting HSR funds because trains require operating subsidy

The often-cited reason to reject the HSR funds is mentioned in the article: "The Republican governor-elect has said he didn't want taxpayers to pick up operating costs that state officials had projected at $7.5 million a year, after subtracting fares."

However, it's well-known that all transit requires some form of operating subsidy - even private, for-profit transit if you look at airport and highway funding (for airlines and inter-city buses), yet the Amtrak or HSR subsidy is nonetheless used to justify killing the project.

However, Walker proclaimed during the campaign:
“It’s reckless of Governor Doyle and (Milwaukee) Mayor Barrett (his Dem. opponent) to spend $810 million of taxpayer money on a boondoggle train when we can’t even afford to fix our roads and bridges. Our state is facing a $2.5 billion hole in next year’s budget and a list a mile long of transportation needs. As governor, I will stop this train dead in its tracks and advocate for this money to be used for roads and bridges instead.”

By hoping to use the funds to plug the state's transportation gap, is he not just hoping to subsidize an alternative transportation program? Yes, I can understand existing infrastructure should receive priority over new projects, but Gov. Doyle and presumably the state legislature chose to apply for the HSR program. By hoping to transfer the award to his priorities he only reveals anti-transit bias, i.e. he'll take federal funds to subsidize road infrastructure but not use them to build new (or improved) rail infrastructure that will require an operating subsidy.

I hope the Wisconsin pro-rail, pro-employment forces expose Walker for being what he is - not a fiscal conservative, as some in the media have made him out to be, but just an anti-rail politician making fiscally irresponsible choices for his state.

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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