Has Scott Walker Finally Found a Way to Kill the Milwaukee Streetcar?
Building a streetcar in a Midwestern city without rail transit is political bloodsport. As Cincinnati can testify, something about the threat of adding rail transit to a city that doesn’t have it really agitates some elements of the Midwestern right wing establishment.
In Wisconsin, Republican state lawmakers already did their best to kill the Milwaukee streetcar, back in the 1990s, under Governor Tommy Thompson. But those efforts were thwarted when representatives of the city of Milwaukee lodged a successful civil rights complaint through U.S. DOT, securing hundreds of millions of dollars for a Milwaukee transit project.
But James Rowen at the Political Environment reports that as the project is nearing construction, rail-hating state officials may have found a way to sabotage it without violating their consent agreement with the feds. Republicans on the state’s budget committee have proposed a rule that would prevent the cost of construction from affecting utility bills, a move the Journal Sentinel said would “likely would kill the project” as it approaches the utility relocation phase.
Rowen says Governor Scott Walker is trying to appeal to his talk radio base, at the expense of the state’s largest city:
Just as Walker obeyed city-fearing, suburban-focused talk radio and denied the two largest state cities a federally-funded Amtrak line – – and the state a spot in a regional rail network connecting cities with major university and research center employers – – Walker continues to marginalize Milwaukee over the streetcar plan.