Part 1: Wisconsin: Governor Elect Scott Walker: Missing the train? This is the first post in a multi-part series on the apparent GOP war on America’s trains.
Wisconsin Elect Governor Scott Walker
Here is a photo of Scott Walker, just elected as Wisconsin’s new governor.
As part of his campaign Walker, a Republican, promised to create 250,000 jobs
in his four-year term. Just make Wisconsin a good place to do business and the jobs will follow. “Just get government out of the way.”
Yet moments after the ballots were counted, Walker declared that he would order a halt to all work on the high speed commuter rail line planned to run between Milwaukee (state’s biggest city) and Madison (capital). Take note that under Governor Jim Doyle (Democrat) the obtained about $800 million in federal funding for the high-speed rail line. Why? Walker says he doesn’t Wisconsin taxpayers to pick up $7.5 million a year in operating costs. Walker said he would rather use the funds for roads and highways (a no-no under the federal funding legislation for high-speed rails).
Wisconsin open for business? As a result of the high-speed rail project, a Spanish train manufacturer Talgo announced (March 2010) that it would open a plant in Milwaukee to produce and maintain the trains for the system. See Video. The plant shown below has already hired 125 workers and has room to expand its operations, has contracts with Amtrak and looks toward the Midwest for market growth.
Talgo's rail facility in Milwaukee. Dead in its tracks?
Talgo to leave Milwaukee?
Within days of Gov-Elect Walker’s pronouncement. A Talgo executive said that the company would seriously consider moving its plant from Milwaukee to Illinois in 2012 if Walker follows through on his vow to kill the planned high-speed rail line. (See Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel article
Without missing a beat Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (Democrat) sent a letter to Talgo inviting the company to move to Illinois and promised to provide incentives to lure the company.
Talgo’s response? Company VP Nora Friend put it nicely.
“If Wisconsin is losing its enthusiasm for its rail program and others are not, we could go to Illinois and manufacture world-class trains there. We certainly appreciate Gov. Quinn reaching out to us. We will consider very seriously states that want to grow their rail program.” (Note: we got several comments insisting that the people of Wisconsin have not lost enthusiasm, just Mr. Walker and cronies. See comments, below).
Unions, neighborhood groups, elected officials rally for the train. Mil. Journal/Sent. Photo: Mark Abramson
Light at the end of the tunnel? The state’s unions and many elected officials were quick to react. Moreover, he’s been informed that the money can’t be used for roads. To Gov-Elect Walker’s credit, he seems to be getting the message. In a recent TV Interview Walker said that he is open to using the funding for other rail projects, but not the Milwaukee-Madison high speed line. We will track this story.
1. Ohio Governor Elect John Kasich (Republican) to pull plug on statewide rail passenger system.
2. NJ Governor Christie and the proposed passenger rail tunnel between New York City and Jersey.
3. Railroads and Amtrak — great for the economy and great for the environment.
Our comments and email replies tell us that there are a lot of commuter rail backers in Wisconsin. However, some believe that the first priority should be a proposed commuter line that with service from Kenosha to Milwaukee including 9 stops — those labeled in yellow on the map (click to enlarge). The proposal envisions a connection with the with the Chicago Metra Line that serves commuters in northeast Illinois (white labels) with a terminal in Chicago. An economic and environmental study
conducted the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Institute for Survey and Policy Research projects that the KRM if implemented would create large economic development along the corridor to the tune of 71,000 jobs.
Secondly, we learned that the U.S. Department of Transportation plans to transfer Wisconsin and Ohio rail funds to North Carolina and Virginia if Governors-to-be Walker and Kasich spurn the megabucks. NC and VA are lobbying hard for a for a high speed line between Charlotte, NC and Washington DC with intermediate stops. We like what U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat, told reporters, “We’ve been trying to impress upon Governor-elect Walker that we can either create jobs here in Wisconsin or get left in the dust and watch job growth and economic development somewhere else. This is exactly what we’ve been working to prevent, and I hope it’s not too late for Governor-elect Walker to see the opportunity he’s denying Wisconsin.”
See Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article