Friday, September 19, 2008

Drop In The Bucket For State Rail

The state is passing out $16 million for several freight rail improvements statewide - - minuscule and incremental investments compared to highway funding.

The unnecessary Interchange to Nowhere in Western Waukesha County - - connecting to an upscale mall project delayed, and now proposed as anything but upscale - - has a state share pegged at $23.1 million; ground was broken this week on $1.9 billion in I-94 reconstruction and expansion from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line.

For light rail? Nothing, and blocked for Milwaukee since 1997.

For commuter rail? A few planning bucks, but nothing in the ground.

This imbalance reflects the fundamental distortion in state transportation funding.

Rail, whether freight or passenger, is at the short end of the stick.

State aids for local road repairs - - whether to fill potholes or maintain basic infrastructure - - is never adequate, though these programs supplement property taxes and keep keep cities, towns and village economies stable.

But highways, especially brand spanking-new projects, continue to reap their millions, billions even - - because that is where there is the most mutually-beneficial intersection among elected officials at all levels, road-building companies, lobbyists and campaign contributions.

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