Why Was Madison Left Out of the Midwest Rail Boom?

Does the state government of Wisconsin, under the leadership of Scott Walker, hate intercity rail or love it? Lately, it’s been difficult to tell.

The Hiawatha Line between Milwaukee and Chicago is breaking ridership records, but Madison is being left out thanks to what James Rowen calls a partisan "cudgel against cities." Image: ##http://www.jsonline.com/multimedia/photos/121534234.html##Milwaukee Journal Sentinel##

Just a few years ago, the newly elected Walker rejected some $810 million in federal money to expand passenger rail to the capital city of Madison. Now, all of a sudden, Wisconsin DOT is in talks with Amtrak to expand service between Milwaukee and Chicago and points beyond. Why the change in attitude?

James Rowen at the Political Environment says Madison got left behind because of the worst kind of partisan decision making:

Killing the train was really all about sticking it to Madison, denying a Democratic city a transportation option for tourists, students, business officials and university researchers.

Though some Amtrak improvements will take place in Wisconsin, Republican Scott Walker was not going to allow out-going Democratic Governor Jim Doyle to get any credit, or Madison receive any economic benefit from modern train service.

Walker instead bowed to his right-wing, suburban talk radio base and succeeded in getting Wisconsin’s $810 million in federal funding won by Doyle from the Obama administration pushed to other states.

Sacrificed for right-wing politics: thousands of construction jobs, a Milwaukee-based train assembly and repair factory, and an extension of the Chicago-Milwaukee “Hiawatha” Amtrak line to Madison.

That extension was to be a segment of the planned Midwest regional high-speed system – – but Walker used the issue as a campaign cudgel against cities, Democrats and even Doyle even though Doyle was not on the ballot.

Light rail, commuter tail, Amtrak rail – – it’s the same partisan, anti-urban dog whistle, even though the stance costs the state commerce and employment.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee shares photos of the city’s first parklet. Reno Rambler cites some stats indicating that bike lanes are good for property values. And Walkable Dallas Fort Worth culls some lessons from Houston’s map of potential light rail routes.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Midwest Rail Advocates Take the Fight to Scott Walker

|
In November, voters in 36 states will head to the polls to choose governors. Among the state leaders up for reelection is Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who faces a strong challenge from Democrat and former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke. Walker is one of three Republican governors who rejected high-speed rail funds from the Obama administration in 2010 […]

Midwest Rail Advocates Take the Fight to Scott Walker

|
In November, voters in 36 states will head to the polls to choose governors. Among the state leaders up for reelection is Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who faces a strong challenge from Democrat and former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke. Walker is one of three Republican governors who rejected high-speed rail funds from the Obama administration in 2010 […]

Estranged Bedfellows: Trains and Conservatism

|
It’s not really clear how this fits with an agenda of fiscal conservatism, but for some reason passenger rail has become a scapegoat for the political right. From New Jersey to Ohio and Wisconsin, Republican executives are calling off passenger rail projects with great fanfare. Perhaps the most flamboyant opponent is Wisconsin Governor-Elect Scott Walker, […]

Scott Walker’s Bid to Strip Street Safety From Wisconsin Road Projects

|
There’s really no argument: GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker has been an absolute disaster for transportation progress in Wisconsin. As governor, he’s slashed funding for transit, isolating urban workers in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, he’s increased funding for all sorts of wasteful highway projects, like the billion-dollar widening of I-94 in Milwaukee, pilfering funds for local roads […]

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 […]

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 […]