Archives for posts with tag: rail

Here’s a fun use of taxpayer dollars: some of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation are proposing a bill that would rewrite federal law so that Gov-elect Walker can give back money designated for Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project and use it to “pay down the federal debt.”  It won’t help Wisconsin’s debt that much, though.  We’ll still owe $100 million dollars and will lose all those jobs we need (fewer jobs=fewer taxpayers=less revenue=more state debt).

Other than the fact that we’ll still lose jobs and money, there are some other problems with the proposed bill.  For instance, it won’t do anything to improve Wisconsin’s infrastructure, or give people more convenient ways to get around the Midwest.  A high-speed rail service would do that, though.  Also the bill is unlikely to go very far because there are all these other states (Illinois, New York, California)  that would rather have that $810 million dollars go to them for rail projects.  And their congressional delegations will vote accordingly to make sure their  citizens’ federal tax dollars go to improve American infrastructure and the business climate back home. All those other states for prosperity!

But Wisconsin, know this, your congressional delegation is there fighting for you…to be bypassed by business, growth,development, tourism and improved transportation options–all to help your Governor-elect save face.

But in happy, non-cynical train news, the Sierra Club released details on all the different Save the Train Day of Action rallies that will take place all around the state this Saturday.  All the information is available on this Facebook  page, or visit their website.

Also for those who enjoy laughing at their own misery, here’s one for you:

Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan

New Links of Interest

Activism

November 20th – Save the Train Action Day (Details and locations announced today!)

Pledge to ride the train (WISPIRG)

WPR – “Conversations with Joy Cardine” (Call WPR tomorrow morning between 7-8 AM to voice your support of high-speed rail: 1-800-642-1234)

AFL-CIO – Petition to save rail and jobs

Prorail

Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers

Community Support

Scott McDonnell – Concerned about roads and bridges? Invest in rail.

AFL-CIO – Labor and community groups rally to save Wisconsin jobs

Citizens Action – Hundreds in Milwaukee rally to save high-speed train

Representative Grigsby – Pushes to save Wisconsin high speed rail jobs

Editorials

Hands on Wisconsin: Walker’s Train Tantrum

In praise of flip-flopping

Are we pennywise but pound foolish?

Blogs

Lubar backs Walker, high speed rail

Emily’s Post: Walker waffles on the train, RoJo observations, and the GOP ‘mandate’

Did Chicago-style Politics Kill Wisconsin’s High Speed Rail?

Canceling high-speed rail would derail jobs

Getting Back on Track

Scott Walker and high speed rail: This is why Wisconsin can’t have nice things. Or jobs.

Let’s boycott Wisconsin

Letters to the Editor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Satire

Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan



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This week, I’ll be getting back to basics in terms of my of coverage of the Save the Train movement–yes, it really is one. Much has been said already about the catastrophe that will befall Wisconsin if we do not go ahead with this project: Loss of $100 million, immediate loss of 400 jobs, loss of 4,000 eventual construction jobs, and no train to show for it!  I’ve worked to make it clear that cancelling the train would  really be the biggest Boondoggle of them all.

But I think it’s also important to take some time to remember why Wisconsin so desperately wanted high-speed passenger rail in the first place. Let’s remember that if the train does go ahead, we not only avoid all those bad things I mentioned above, but we gain an amazing new weapon in our transportation arsenal!  Here are six reasons why the high-speed train will be a huge asset to Wisconsin’s infrastructure. I’ll be covering these in greater debt during the week:

1. Wisconsin will be connected

What is often forgotten when referring to the project as the “Madison to Milwaukee train” is that that’s only a leg in a long-term high-speed rail infrastructure plan–a plan twenty years in the making.  This is a project that will provide an efficient transportation alternative that will eventually be fast enough to compete with air travel (once you factor in waits at airports). It’s a type of travel that will allow people to get work done while they travel.  It will easily connect businesses, universities, tourists and families to cities all over the Midwest.

2. The riders are there now and there will be even more of them in the future

Just because someone says “nobody will ride this train” does not actually make it so. The Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha line is hugely successful passenger rail service. The fact of the matter is, we have a large aging population that will soon no longer be able to drive. Madison, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, La Crosse, Chicago all have large populations of students and young people who don’t own cars. More and more young professionals live in city centers without cars.  Business people want to take the train because they can do work and ride to a meeting prepared and relaxed.  The ridership is there. The ridership will grow.

3. Jobs

Jobs: Wisconsin needs them. This project creates a lot of them.

4. Rail corridor improvements

In addition to building a high-speed passenger train, this projects funds much-need freight rail improvements.  Commerce! Jobs!

5. Supports car-free living

Some people view environmentalism with great skepticism, but think of it more as human-species-protectionism. Trains have less impact on the environment than the cars that would carry the same amount of passengers. As gas prices increase and our planet heats up (yes, it’s really happening), high-speed rail will give people a way to efficiently get around without relying on cars.

6. Trains are a pleasure to ride

As anyone who’s taken an Amtrak train in the last few years can attest, trains a great way to get around.  Put your feet up, walk around the train, give you kids some space to play, have a beer or a sandwich, get some work done…it’s all possible on a train.

Also, if you need more convincing, here is Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz explaining why this rail project is so important.

New Links

Advocacy

Eau Claire Leader Telegram – Question of the Week (Let them know why you want high-speed rail in Wisconsin)

Editorials

Oshkosh Northwestern – Pay no attention to that woman tied to the tracks

Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter – High-speed rail line should proceed

John Nichols: Walker creates jobs, but not in Wisconsin

Bloomington Pentagraph – Walker should pick fight with Illinois

The fast train represents opportunity

Editorial: The arguments against rail just don’t measure up

Cancellation of high-speed rail will kill jobs

Our view: Minnesota aims to be ready for rail (Winona Paper, Discusses Wisconsin)

Chris Rickert: Putting your money where the train is

Letters to the Editor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

La Crosse Tribune – Funding train is money well spent

Sheboygan Press – Rethink position on train

Stevens Point Journal – Plan to cancel high-speed rail project wrong

Blogs

Backwards we go!

Rail Cheaper and Faster Than Air

Fast rail operating costs would be 1% or less of highway operating subsidies


For several days, this blog has been committed to saving Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project.  I’ve shared a number of links and resources.  Please visit my new “Save the Train” page located at the top of the blog to see the master list of all the resources shared over the last week.  And please keep visiting for more updates!

The great news is that the train project continues to stay in the news.  In fact the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will devote tomorrow’s editorial to the subject; the online version is already up.   It’s a well-reasoned, insightful analysis that really walks everyone through why it’s so important to save this project.  If you only read one editorial about the project, this should probably be it:

EDITORIAL: The arguments against rail just don’t measure up

We need jobs; this would provide some. We need economic development; this would link the state to those networks. Think of it as state money coming home.

Governor-elect Scott Walker wants to stop a fast rail line from Milwaukee to Madison essentially because he thinks it would be a waste of taxpayer money. But what’s really in danger of being wasted here is opportunity: opportunity for jobs, for economic growth, for a modern balanced transportation system.

Walker ran on a campaign that emphasized the need for jobs, jobs and more jobs. He has promised to call a special session as soon as he’s sworn into office aimed at creating a more business-friendly atmosphere in Wisconsin. He has promised to create 250,000 jobs in his first term. His approach is right on target.

What he and other critics of rail miss is that creating a network of fast trains to connect Midwestern cities can play an essential role in helping businesses connect and in creating jobs. Providing another option to traffic-jammed freeways and hassle-plagued airports could attract new companies and young workers who prefer working on a train to sitting in traffic or being body-scanned in an airport. Add in gas prices that are bound to go up and Wisconsin’s occasionally traffic-killing weather, and traveling by rail becomes even more attractive.

Fast rail probably works best for medium-range traveling, say in the 100- to 400-mile range, which is exactly what’s being discussed here. And while speeds won’t reach the true high-speed standards of Europe and Japan, they are expected to be up to 110 mph by 2015 and will still provide a convenient service that avoids the hassles of driving and flying and allows passengers to rest or work while they’re traveling. Using rail to connect business centers and research parks in Chicago to such centers in Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis could help those centers interact and feed off each other for growth.

If that network isn’t built here, companies and young workers will go to places such as Denver, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle and Salt Lake City that embrace transit, as Steve Hiniker of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin told us.

A report released earlier this year by the U.S. Conference of Mayors looked at the potential benefits of high-speed rail for four “hub” cities: Albany, Chicago, Orlando and Los Angeles. Chicago would be the center of a network that would connect the city to St. Louis, Detroit and Minneapolis (with stops in Milwaukee and Madison). The report projected “as much as $6.1 billion a year in new business sales, producing up to 42,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in new wages.”

Even if the gains don’t reach those levels, there will still be gains. Wisconsin could get a piece of that action, but only if it doesn’t waste the opportunity that it’s been given. Now consider what happens if we do throw that out. Gov. Jim Doyle has argued that it will cost the state $100 million that will have to be repaid to the federal government and 400 jobs.

Talgo, a Spanish firm that’s going to build railroad cars in Milwaukee, could pull out after 2012 and move to Illinois, which would welcome that company with open arms. Businesses that may have been planning to grow around the Talgo site now wonder if they should, given the possibility that the company may pull out.

Walker got elected governor as a job-creator. Does he really want to get the reputation as a job-killer right out of the gate?

The feds are giving Wisconsin $810 million to build the fast passenger rail line from Milwaukee to Madison and another $13 million for improvements on the Chicago-to-Milwaukee route. Walker supports the improvements on the Chicago-Milwaukee line and is willing to talk about improvements on the current Milwaukee-to-Minneapolis line.

But he also has argued that the federal government should allow Wisconsin to use much of that money on roads. Granted, the federal government could make some changes, perhaps a compromise can be reached; but that strikes us as about as likely to happen as Fox Valley inhabitants suddenly becoming Chicago Bears fans.

The Obama administration has invested $8 billion in federal stimulus money to create 13 high-speed rail corridors. If Wisconsin doesn’t want to spend those federal dollars (think of it as some of “our” money, returned to us), some other state will be more than happy to. Illinois officials say they’d be more than willing to accept them. New York and California undoubtedly would be just as willing.

Walker also says he doesn’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for the operational costs of the system, estimated to be about $7.5 million annually. But that’s tiny compared with projects such as the Marquette Interchange rebuild ($800 million), the pending Zoo Interchange rebuild ($2.3 billion) and the widening of I-94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois border ($1.9 billion). And if the feds pick up 90% of the operational cost of the line, as they do for the Hiawatha passenger service between Chicago and Milwaukee, state tax support for the line would be a relative pittance. Maybe such support wouldn’t be guaranteed, as Walker argues, but it’s certainly worth talking about.

Critics of the rail line argue that the Obama administration is investing in an outdated mode of transportation. Here’s what’s outdated: an interstate highway system that’s more than half a century old and crumbling. Major portions of it are being rebuilt at tremendous cost. Here’s also what’s out of date: continuing to rely on enormous quantities of foreign-supplied gasoline to move large numbers of people in individual vehicles over long distances.

As the nation rebuilds its interstate system – and, yes, roads and cars will still be the backbone of America’s transportation infrastructure – let’s also build a smarter system that provides travelers with reasonable and better options. Let’s not put all our eggs in a couple of baskets.

Wisconsin has an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. To miss that opportunity would be the real waste. To be competitive in a global economy, the state has to plan for a future that includes a modern rail network as part of a modern transportation system. Let’s start now by saying “yes.”

The day in trains was a bit of a snoozer in terms of news.  We learned (again) that Governor Doyle will not go ahead with the trains until Gov-elect Walker signs onto the project (that’s why all the phone calls, emails, petitions and community education are so important right now).  Walker also said he wasn’t going to push the feds right now on getting the rail money appropriated for roads (probably because he knows he can’t get the appropriation changed). Is he simply trying to ride out the negative press behind the project’s cancellation?  Is our Gov-elect looking to negotiate, or be convinced of something? Is he hoping that once the new congress starts, something will happen that will allow him to get the appropriation changed? It’s a great mystery that I’m sure will be partially revealed down the road.

Wisconsin’s rail debate became national news, with a feature piece this evening on NPR.  I continue to question Gov-elect Walker’s rationale for cancelling the project, given that costs are still negotiable at this point AND there are many people willing to come to the table with him.  Further, as I said yesterday, Gov-elect Walker favors state support for the Hiawatha line from Milwaukee to Chicago.  What gives? I’ve suspected an anti-Madison bias (and this Journal Sentinel blog indicates that it’s clearly out there among conservatives–by the way, the Madison Metro area is nearly 500,000 and contains the best university in the state and the State Capitol. Madison is important and pretty.).  Others suspect Gov-elect Walker may feel a sense of obligation to road builders for all the money they gave to his campaign.  I certainly hope for all of our sakes that such suspicions are incorrect.

In positive news, the Save the Train Wisconsin Facebook Group is up to nearly 7,000 supporters!  And all those train supporters have been busy planning activities to get the word out as to why Wisconsin needs to be a player in the Midwest high-speed rail network.  As I mentioned yesterday, the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin Chapter has declared next Saturday, November 20th a Save the Train action day.  There are rallies and events scheduled to take place all over the state.  To learn more, visit their website.

Also, it positive news, the majority of the members of the Milwaukee Common Council came out in favor of the train.  And AND Virgin Everything owner Richard Branson is interested in investing in Florida’s high-speed rail project.  This is nice to just have in the back of your mind when someone makes an argument that private enterprise does see value in passenger trains. “If trains were valuable, businesses would invest in them”–here’s a very powerful businessman investing in a train.  I’ve already pointed out that Madison’s business community is very much in favor of the project.  After the election, Milwaukee’s business community sort of said “Meh. We like our train to Chicago, but don’t want to help you get yours.”  Although here’s a video of several Milwaukee business leaders showing strong support for public transportation. “It’s not a want. It’s a need,” says one executive:

You scratch my head; I’ll scratch yours!

New Links of Interest

Advocacy (Growing by leaps and bounds!)

Call Scott Walker’s Transition Office: 608-261-9200

AFL-CIO Rally (Monday, November 15th, Noon, Talgo site in Milwaukee)

UW-Eau Claire Petition Rally (Wednesday, November 17th, 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m., Campus Mall)

WISPIRG Letter Campaign

Badger Football Game Flier Distribution (Saturday, November 13th, Meet at Topper’s near Camp Randall at 9:30 a.m. — More details an the linked Facebook group)

1,000 Friends of Wisconsin Petition Campaign

Wisconsin Environment Petition

Bring High-Speed Rail to Eau Claire Facebook Group

Ray LaHood Facebook Page (Let the US Transportation Secretary know Wisconsin is still committed to high-speed rail)

Keep High-Speed Rail in Wisconsin Facebook Page

Editorials

Plain Talk: Road builders get return on their Walker investment

Capital Times – Even Republicans are tell Walker he’s wrong about rail money

Letters to the Editor

‘Tainted’ funds must be rejected by Walker

Blogs

Riding the Rails, Looking for Work

News Analysis

The Roadmap to a High-Speed Recovery

Today in train talk, the  Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce went on record (again) to voice support for Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project. (This is a business association with over 1,600 members in the Madison area.) In the same article, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce basically said to Madison’s business community, “screw you guys, we got ours”:

“Quite frankly, our focus was on ensuring that we had that (Hiawatha) connection to Chicago for lots of reasons. (The Madison line has) been more of a nice-to-have discussion than a need-to-have discussion in the business community in southeastern Wisconsin,” Sheehy said Wednesday. “In a sense, why beat a dead train?”

Here’s a fact that may make you hit your head against the wall:  Governor-elect Walker supports the already-existing train from Milwaukee to Chicago AND the use of stimulus money to upgrade it.  This begs the question–why do some people hate Madison? Seriously. Is it the university?  The State Capitol? Our tolerance of people (even Republicans!)? Our emphasis on urban planning? The fact that we’re generally ranked as one of the healthiest and best places to live in the country? Our high-tech businesses? Ella’s Deli?  Why is a train from Milwaukee to Chicago a good investment in our infrastructure, but a train from Madison to Chicago is a boondoggle?  This makes no sense.

 

Talgo

 

Also there was a press conference today where people who make trains in Wisconsin said they are worried that they will lose their jobs.  Also Governor-elect Walker again said he will end the train project while somehow also creating 250,000 jobs. Brain explosion!

New Links of Interest

Advocacy

Save the Train Wisconsin Facebook Page (This is different from the page I posted yesterday and has many more supporters)

Gov-elect Walker – Citizen Suggestions (Governor-elect Walker seeks our suggestions–maybe he’ll listen to our suggestions to save jobs and keep the train!)

Care 2 – Wisconsin High Speed Rail Petition (To Gov-elect Walker)

National Association of Railroad Passengers Petition

Save the Train – What you can do (Document prepared by ProRail with additional ideas and resources for advocacy)

Editorials

Jim Stingl – Walker holding firm on the wrong side of the tracks

Dan Bell – Governor-elect should do the math on rail line

La Crosse Tribune – Our View: Walker must trust rail project

William S. Lind – Conservatives should like rail

High-speed rail: A gravy train?

Blogs (Highlights from the past week)

Anti-spending climate shouldn’t mean cloudy skies for transit

In the public interest: Fast trains don’t belong to either party

Emily’s Post: Wisconsin Republicans focusing on everything but jobs

Governor-elect Scott Walker is being unrealistic about trains

Letters to the Editor

In economic terms, Wisconsin loses

Don’t waste once in a lifetime opportunity

Dems–Don’t let GOP abandon rail

High-speed rail is an economic engine

Press Releases

WISPIRG – Why Wisconsin needs passenger rail

Letter of Support

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce – Letter in support of Wisconsin’s application for high-speed rail funds

 

BizTimes.com

 

Hey, Wisconsin! How’s it going?  Remember how a week ago today we has this thing called an election? Remember how 52% of you decided to vote Republican everything, no matter how vapid and insane the Republican candidate appeared to be? Dear, Wisconsin, I have a question: What did you mean by that?  Did 52% of you mean, by voting that way, that you don’t want there to by high-speed rail in Wisconsin? Or did 52% of you vote Republican for a litany of variant hopes and fears that may or may not had anything to with high-speed rail. My guess is that it is probably the latter.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a good way to know how many people were thinking about rail when they connected their arrow to Scott Walker last Tuesday.  High speed rail was not part of any exit polling data I’ve seen. Moreover, before the election, polling on the high-speed rail project was limited.  The most recent poll on this issue was the St. Norbert’s poll, which came out around mid-October.  In October 44% of respondents were in favor of rail.  What’s striking is that, of this group of respondents, 60% said they would probably never take the train. Chances are many of the people polled live nowhere near the proposed line or stations. What if a similar survey were to concentrate on the areas of the state most likely to use the train: Southern and Western Wisconsin? Why do we poll statewide on local infrastructure questions?  What approval rate would we see in statewide polls if questions were to be asked about local highway and interstate expansions? We don’t normally ask those questions; why did we ask such questions about the train project? Oh, I answered that one myself. Because the train project became a campaign issue! Why was that again?

Behind these questions is a deep, deep concern: Wisconsin may lose it’s high-speed train.  For those of you not in the know, last year Wisconsin bid for and won $810 million of federal recovery act funds to build a high-speed rail line that would run from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and (a few years later) eventually on to Minneapolis. This is a line that does not currently exist and has long been supported by people from both parties (including Republican former Governor, Tommy Thompson).  Last Tuesday, Wisconsin elected Scott Walker as our next Governor. Scott Walker has consistently said he does not support the train project and claims that his election victory means that 52% of Wisconsin voters also want to kill the train.  But is that actually true? And at what cost do we end this project?

Those are the questions that we need to answer right now, Wisconsin.  Governor Doyle has made it clear that the decision on the rail project now ultimately rests with Governor-elect Walker.  But should Walker choose to the end the project, it will have catastrophic implications on our infrastructure and economy.  Not only will Wisconsin have no high-speed train (which will improve our transportation infrastructure and help commerce), but we will be on the hook to the feds for $14 million we’ve already spent and another $80 million for other projects and upgrades.  Further, Wisconsin will immediately lose 400 jobs and will say goodbye to the additional 4,000 to be created during the construction phase of the project.

In light of these numbers, why would anyone want to end this infrastructure project? Walker has said that he wants the feds to allow the high-speed rail money to come to Wisconsin as road money–as he believes it would be better spent that way.  But this argument willfully ignores the fact that this money is, by law, designated as rail money.  Designating this money to sometime else would require an act of congress.  Further, the US DOT, has said that it will not allow Wisconsin to use the money for anything but trains, and should Wisconsin refuse to use its money for that purpose it will be given to another state.  Both New York and Illinois have already said they will gladly take our rail funding.  Even fellow Republicans admit that congress is far more likely to give the funds to another state for than to reappropriate the money as road funding.  Does Gov-elect Walker really think that his election meant voters would be okay with giving our jobs and money to New York or *cough* Illinois?

Further, Walker has claimed that he doesn’t want Wisconsin to be on the hook for the estimated $7.5 million annual upkeep cost for the rail line.  But this $7.5 million is really a drop in the bucket of what the state spends on road upkeep every year.  In the current state budget, the state DOT receives $200 million for road maintenance and repair.  This money is designated for projects that do not receive any federal support. We also get money from the feds for upkeep and repair. And, yes, this all taxpayer money, too. Roads aren’t free, either. Further, federal and state officials have both strongly hinted that many of the rail upkeep costs could be picked up by the federal government.  BREAKING: And Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has said Madison is willing to help off-set the state’s operating costs for the project, while Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he will sue the state if it does not go through with the project. (The reason why he wants to sue is because Milwaukee has put capital of its own in the project–a Milwaukee train manufacturer has already said it will leave the state if Wisconsin ends the project.)

Wisconsin, this is our opportunity to tell our Governor-elect that we want rail jobs to stay here in Wisconsin and that we rail is important part of our infrastructure. High-speed passenger rail holds great promise to reduce congestion and improve commerce along the rail line.  Many people and organizations have voiced support for the train in recent days, I hope you will consider joining them.

Here are links of interest (I hope to update as the issue progresses):

Advocacy

Stand Up For Trains (Midwest High Speed Rail Association–has links to their Facebook page and encourage word of mouth advocacy)

Forward Lookout (Progressive Blog, lays out strong arguments to refute common anti-rail misconceptions)

Save the Train – Wisconsin Facebook Group

Community Support

Watertown Chamber of Commerce

League of Women Voters

Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Sierra  Club of Wisconsin

Downtown Madison Inc

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz (Also here and here)

Editorials

Wisconsin State Journal – Get Past Rail Rhetoric to Reality

Hands on Wisconsin: Walker’s great train robbery

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – There are Jobs at Stake

Capital Times – High-speed rail essential to Wisconsin’s economic renewal

The Sheboygan Press – Let’s look at big picture on rail line

La Crosse Tribune – Let’s hope Walker changes mind on rail

Watertown Daily Times – The high-speed train issue

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Questionable Dealing

Letters to the Editor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Build the Train

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – It’s time to catch up; Muddled editorial thinking; Saying no is madness