Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

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.

false

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.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

What a Surprise! Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause Helps Rich Suburban Drivers

Gov. Hochul's "little guys" certainly have big wallets. Meanwhile, the rest of us suffer with declining subway service and buses that are slower than walking. Thanks, Kathy.

July 22, 2024

Philadelphia Demands More Than ‘Flex-Post’ Protected Bike Lanes After Motorist Kills Cyclist

Pediatric oncologist Barbara Friedes was struck while biking on a "protected" path. Now, advocates are arguing that flex posts should be replaced with something far better.

July 22, 2024

Monday’s Headlines Switch Tracks

President Joe Biden dropped out of the race Sunday and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris. So what does this mean for transportation?

July 22, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Go Back to the Future

If you liked the first Trump administration's transportation policies, you're going to love the second Trump administration's transportation policies.

July 19, 2024

Advocates Share What It Takes to Fight Highway Expansions in Court 

What does it take to sue your state DOT? Time, money, the right partners, and a little creativity, a recent survey of activists found.

July 19, 2024
See all posts