Wisconsin Gov Candidate Threatens Rail Extension

Plans to expand Amtrak service from Milwaukee to Madison, Wisconsin are facing organized opposition from a political candidate with his eye on the state’s highest office. The state of Wisconsin has been awarded $810 million in stimulus funds to extend the Hiawatha line, which runs between Chicago and Milwaukee, about 80 miles to the state’s capital. The project is expected to create thousands of jobs.

But Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker has made opposition to the rail line a central tenet of his campaign, promising to stop construction if he’s elected. Carfree Chicago is working to rally readers to the project’s defense:

I’ve been looking forward to the new train service planned between Chicago and Madison, Wis. So I was disappointed to hear that Scott Walker… has launched a major attack against passenger trains in Wisconsin.

This week, he held an anti-train rally in Milwaukee and began running TV ads promising to "stop this train." He even set up a special website: http://www.NoTrain.com.

Please ask your friends in Wisconsin to show their support for passenger rail expansion.

Carfree Chicago is directing rail supporters to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, which has issued an action alert on the topic, urging visitors to contact their elected representatives.

Also on the Network: Tacoma Tomorrow celebrates the likely passage of a pro-transit ballot measure; CincyStreetcar Blog notes that Cincinnati’s new casino developer is watching the city’s progress on its streetcar project; and The Infrastructurist wonders whether we will start to see Walk Score rankings reflected in the selling price of homes.

  • Max

    I wonder if these “limited government” Tea Baggers will take the same fervent action to stop publicly funded freeways from being built.

  • Max

    Or for that matter, airline subsidies. Why are we picking one mass transit industry over another? Isn’t that anathema to “small government” platforms?

  • We’ve been over this before: Mass transit runs on government subsidies, whereas expressways run on magic.

    Understanding the transportation policy of these “small government” types requires some mind-bending. Take, for example, their core values of hard work and self-initiative. That would lend one to believe that eschewing subsidized fuel and infrastructure by opting to use your leg muscles by pushing pedals to physically move yourself from home to work would be their preferred mode of travel. Unfortunately, this makes you a communist. We’re not quire sure how this works, so I guess I’ll have to take their word for it.

  • MAT

    We’re rooting for you here in Upstate New York, Mr. Walker. We’ll happily spend the $810 million on our Empire Corridor and enjoy the jobs, investment, and other benefits that accrue from it. I mean really, Wisconsin is great as is, why make it better?

  • Mark Davis

    does he realize that if he stops the high speed rail the federal money doesn’t get diverted to fix pot holes in SUV laden suburban super highways?

    I realize this is completely besides the pouint, but…
    If you’re going to be on TV don’t have your tie go below your belt. The knot ios too haigh and too small. Also get a shirt that fits better. this really makes a difference. Maybe at the next tea party he can get some style tips from Glenn Beck.

  • Winston

    If Wisconsin really doesn’t want the cash, I’m sure it could be put to good use on California’s high speed rail project or upgrading the Surfliners and Capitols (the second and third busiest rail corridors in the US) which will feed California’s HSR line.

  • Without rail connectivity, kiss your future goodbye.

  • ZA

    I, for one, will claim *my* portion of the public road and charge tolls for all passersby. Don’t intrude on *my* entrepreneurial freedom! [/tongue in cheek]

  • hubbert_nli

    I fear for the future of this country

  • kaja

    > I fear for the future of this country

    I eagerly anticipate this country inheriting the future it so richly deserves

  • In his defense, Wisconsin’s plans are rotten. The trains will be FRA-compliant, despite the realistic possibility of the compliance mandate going away on its own in five years; the platforms will be low, ensuring very long boarding times; the turnaround times will be measured in hours, not minutes.

  • Why don’t politicians ever complain about the huge federal subsidies for highways? Do they not realize that federal highway spending far far far exceeds transit? And a good chunk of this money does not come from user fees/gas taxes. Not to mention the externalities of roads (pollution, runoff, time spent in traffic, etc), you have to overlook a lot of facts to even entertain the GOPs dim argument.

  • Omri

    Meanwhile, Wisconsin is preparing to spend $2 billion on one, single, solitary cloverleaf in Milwaukee.

    The problem in WIsconsin is that the rural-urban is particularly acute. Madison is an academic people’s republic, like Champaign, only far more so, and Milwaukee, well, it’s full of blacks. Talk radio has been milking this for decades, and so not only is the state highway-crazy, it only got around to requiring car insurance this year.

    Wisconsin: making Illinois look sane since 1848.

  • Mark, Omri gave a good answer, but I’ll relate it to a general political trend: Republicans equate government spending with spending on people they don’t like. Spending on rural whites is not spending to them, but basic service or investment. This is why you’ll rarely see mainline conservatives attack government spending on roads, the military, police, or prisons; when they do, they attack only spending on the fringes, such as the F-35 or the Bridge to Nowhere.

  • Andrew Oakland

    I don’t trust him; he ties his tie too long.

  • Tugbaby

    The real irony in this story is the original Hiawatha line was a high speed train that ran to the west coast at speeds exceeding 100 mph. the route was run by the Milwaukee Road and discontinued when it no longer turned a profit. While I am all for rail service, the point the candidate makes is valid. (See: http://www.cato.org/pubs/bp/bp113.pdf) I don’t live in either Wi or Ca., and find it concerning that the nation as a whole is subsidizing a money losing venture just to say we have it. If it really makes sense, let the rail companies, whose business it is to operate trains, build and maintain it. what we need is a sytemic change that would make these business ventures cost effective.

  • political_incorrectness

    A money losing venture like the Interstate Highway system? We’ve had to bailout the highway trust fund THREE times in the last TWO years! $70 billion. In my part of the country, local property taxes go towards roads, so much for “paying for themselves”. CATO is another right wing think tank that spews out BS without backing their facts up. I’ve seen it at Reason and Hoover.

  • That toolshed was my State Assemblyman before he was the County Executive. I wish I would still be a WI resident in November so I could vote against him.

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