Death of Wisconsin high-speed rail project will come at price, Doyle says

According to a statement issued yesterday by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, reported plans to end a high-speed rail project between Milwaukee and Madison will result in millions of rescinded and wasted funds, as well as hundreds of jobs lost in the state. Gov. Doyle’s statements come following public declarations by Governor-elect Scott Walker to end the federally financed project.

Wisconsin received $823 million in rail project funds through the Recovery Act. But with a change in administrations, the state may lose up to $83.4 million in obligated federal funds because incoming governor Walker has said the project will be to costly to maintain once it is built.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense to not move ahead, but we have had an election,” the Wisconsin governor said. Doyle reiterated his belief that the project and high-speed rail in the state will only be successful if Wisconsin and the US Department of Transportation are strong partners. Doyle said he will not “push forward full steam ahead on this project, play brinksmanship.”

Still, the Wisconsin governor said over 400 workers were scheduled to work on the Milwaukee-Madison line over the next several months in a fact sheet provided by his office. And over $14 million in preparation expenses will have to be born by state taxpayers, instead of the federal government.

Furthermore, the state will not be eligible for over $80 million designated for upgrades to the existing Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Mr. Walker has indicated that he would rather use the federal funds to repair state highways, but that would require Congressional approval – if possible at all, the Wall Street Journal reports. US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has stated in a letter to Mr. Walker that, “None of the money provided to Wisconsin may be used for road or highway projects, or anything other than high-speed rail.”

Gov. Doyle said he expects DOT officials to reach out to Governor-elect Walker about the project so that he fully understands these consequences.

“If the Governor-elect decides that Wisconsin should not build new rail infrastructure, the U.S. DOT has made it very clear this money will go to another state.”

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