Anti-rail Wisconsin Governor-elect will decide on fast-train plan

RELATED TOPICS: HIGH SPEED RAIL
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MADISON, Wis. — Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said he’ll leave it up to his successor whether to expand the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha corridor to Madison, the Associated Press has reported. The move almost surely dooms the project, as incoming Gov. Scott Walker made his opposition to the plan a centerpiece of his campaign.

The project has won $810 million in federal funds, so the state isn’t on the hook for any of its construction cost. However, Walker said Wisconsin can’t afford the $7.5 million in additional annual operating costs for the service. Doyle responded to that by pointing out about 80 percent of that will likely be paid by the federal government.

Still, “For us, the bottom line is I don’t believe long-term the state taxpayers can afford to have a high speed line between Milwaukee and Madison,” Walker said.

Walker said throughout his campaign he’s in favor of diverting the high speed rail funds to highway projects. However, the 2009 economic stimulus act that made the funds available doesn’t allow for that. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted as much in a letter to Walker yesterday.

“As you know, we have a difference of opinion about the value of a Midwest high speed rail network,” LaHood wrote. “Nevertheless, I respect the power of governors to make decisions for their states. There seems to be some confusion, however, about how these high speed rail dollars can be spent. For this reason, I would like to set the record straight: None of the money provided to Wisconsin may be used for road and highway projects, or anything other than high speed rail. Consequently, unless you change your position, we plan to engage in an orderly transition to wind down Wisconsin’s project so that we do not waste taxpayers’ money.”
MADISON, Wis. — Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said he’ll leave it up to his successor whether to expand the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha corridor to Madison, the Associated Press has reported. The move almost surely dooms the project, as incoming Gov. Scott Walker made his opposition to the plan a centerpiece of his campaign.

The project has won $810 million in federal funds, so the state isn’t on the hook for any of its construction cost. However, Walker said Wisconsin can’t afford the $7.5 million in additional annual operating costs for the service. Doyle responded to that by pointing out about 80 percent of that will likely be paid by the federal government.

Still, “For us, the bottom line is I don’t believe long-term the state taxpayers can afford to have a high speed line between Milwaukee and Madison,” Walker said.

Walker said throughout his campaign he’s in favor of diverting the high speed rail funds to highway projects. However, the 2009 economic stimulus act that made the funds available doesn’t allow for that. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted as much in a letter to Walker yesterday.

“As you know, we have a difference of opinion about the value of a Midwest high speed rail network,” LaHood wrote. “Nevertheless, I respect the power of governors to make decisions for their states. There seems to be some confusion, however, about how these high speed rail dollars can be spent. For this reason, I would like to set the record straight: None of the money provided to Wisconsin may be used for road and highway projects, or anything other than high speed rail. Consequently, unless you change your position, we plan to engage in an orderly transition to wind down Wisconsin’s project so that we do not waste taxpayers’ money.”
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