Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tracking wrong direction, right track for Wisconsin

I sat in The Hiawatha's "Quiet Car" earlier this week riding the rails to Chicago, plugged my phone into a wall socket and thought what a mistake Wrong-Way Walker made killing Amtrak expansion to Madison.\

He did more than eliminate a federally-funded, job-creating new regional rail link to Madison.
He also killed a comfortable, low-cost/TSA-and-hassle-free Midwestern alternative to unpleasant plane or car travel, too.
On the Milwaukee-Chicago route, there are no tolls to pay, no road traffic congestion, no big parking fees when you get there.
And in an era of air rage, no fighting over disappearing leg room, no being scrunched into a middle seat, as the wide, side-by-side Amtrak seats recline deeply.
And the trains are Wi-Fi enabled. My ticket cost $21. Downtown-to-downtown.
What Walker did, for political reasons, was target the UW community and Blue-voting Madison, reducing transportation options and denying Bucky simple, greener access to points East and West.
What was there not to like? 
Operational costs? Please.
Walker is spending billions of dollars and borrowing heavily in the face of new self-made budget deficits to expand highways - - projects which will require millions of dollars more yearly for repairs, maintenance, plowing, patrolling - - and planning for the next round of construction - -  followed by repairs, maintenance, plowing, patrolling, etc., ad infinitum.
His Amtrak blockade was ideological, spiteful, and counter-productive - - having cost the state and his administration construction and spin-off jobs that could have been credited towards his now-unattainable 250,000 new jobs promise.
And while his obstruction to Amtrak construction may have helped Walker win in 2010, it could help defeat him in November and derail him for 2016, too.

I hope a new Governor can get us back on track.


Wisconsinite said...

Regarding operating costs, they were estimated to be $7.5 million per year with the feds reportedly picking up 90% of the tab; thus leaving the state on the hook for $750K per year. When Walker began to make noises about that, Mayors Cieslewicz and Barrett quickly agreed that if that was all that was stopping the train, they would gladly pick up the tab with city money, so important was this train, its connectivity, and economic development potential, to these two cities. But Walker would not even take their calls. So now in order to save $750K per year, the state is on the hook for something like $200 million for track upgrades, repair and a maintenance facility on the existing Hiawatha line that would've been covered in the high-speed rail grant, plus the $60 million that train maker Talgo is suing us for due to the broken contract (a case they are very likely to win). Those two things alone account for 347 years of operating expenses. Thanks for being so prudent with the state's money, Gov. Walker.

Jake formerly of the LP said...

And by the way, big Congressional hearings this week complaining about railroad tracks being backed up and not allowing for grain, vehicles, and other goods to get to market. It also might cause western Wisconsin to have energy issues because coal can't be shipped to the plant.

Some of this would have been solved if Walker had taken the rail money, because the project also involved upgrading and adding rail lines, relieving congestion.

So how was that move "open for business", in any way? What a disaster.