Monday, May 9, 2011

Feds wrong to pass on Walker's request for rail aid

While putting the kabosh on more expensive rail projects, Gov. Scott Walker asked for a more responsible $150 million in federal transit aid to upgrade the Milwaukee-Chicago Amtrak Hiawatha train service -- six round trips daily supported by Wisconsin and Illinois taxpayers. 

The feds told Wisconsin to take a hike.   Big mistake.

The KRM rail debacle -- which has been documented here in the past -- ended (thankfully) with the change in administrations in Madison. This made upgrading the Hiawatha service even more compelling.

The Chicago-to-Milwaukee Hiawatha service operates on 79 mph track.  New stations were added a few years ago at Mitchell Field and Sturtevant.  Stations are needed in Kenosha and probably Caledonia.  In fact, Kenosha was promised an Amtrak station in 1990 as part of Dairyland Greyhound Park's license application.  We never got it.  It was a good idea then and an even better one now.

Gov. Walker has been a polarizing figure since he took office in January.  Nonetheless even a broken watch is correct twice a day and Walker's modest request -- probably too modest as it did not include stations in Kenosha and Caledonia -- should have been granted.


Anonymous said...

You're just another RINO if you want to ask the government to fund ANY rail. These rail lines should be use of my tax dollars.

I take the train from time to time to downtown Chicago from Kenosha. I just have to shake my head at how low the fares are. It is bunk for taxpayers to subsidize rail travel.

Next you'll want to fund these stations with a sales tax. Sheesh, Dick.

Kathleen said...

The lesson here is "Don't be a douche."

When the $800 mil was still on the table, Walker could have lobbied for the Hiawatha funds (needed), while politely asking the feds to hold off on the Milw./Madison/Minneapolis line (a want, not a need). A little diplomacy might have made a big difference, but we'll never know because Walker was douche about it. It was only late int he campaign that a spokesperson, not himself, said he favored Hiawatha upgrades.

Pete Gruett said...

The feds received requests for ten times as much money as they had funds to dole out. The plan may have been fine on its own merits but lots of projects didn't get funded.

In the last round, Wisconsin had the advantage of a plan that had been in the works for 20 years and was the first step in an eventual Chicago/Twin Cities line.

The new plan was something Walker slapped together at the last minute to distract from the fact that his refusal of the larger grant put the state on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to existing freight and passenger lines, the equivalent of decades of the subsidy he claimed to be so concerned about. He'd just meant to stick it to Madison, now he's ended up screwing Milwaukee too. Blaming it on the feds is pathetic.