High speed rail hearings to be held next week

Within the next week, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be holding a series of public hearings around the state on the issue of high speed rail in Wisconsin, so that citizens will have an opportunity to have their voices be heard on the issue. Here’s the details of the meetings:

The meetings will run from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and will take place in the following cities over the next week:

Tuesday, Nov. 30 in La Crosse at the Best Western Riverfront Hotel, 1835 Rose St.

Wednesday, Dec. 1 in Eau Claire at the Best Western Trail Lodge Hotel, 3340 Mondovi Road

Thursday, Dec. 2 in Fond du Lac at UW-Fond du Lac

Tuesday, Dec. 7 in Madison at the WisDOT Southwest Region Office, 2101 Wright Street

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that opponents of high speed rail in Wisconsin will be out in full force to voice their opposition to any plans to bring high speed rail to Wisconsin, so I’d encourage any of you out there who support high speed rail to try and attend one of these meetings so that your voice can be heard as well.


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22 thoughts on “High speed rail hearings to be held next week

  1. If you ask me, the people of Wisconsin have already spoken their views on the train November 2nd.

    And I laugh everytime one of you guys say “high speed.”

    1. I like how the anti-train crowd always goes after the “high-speed” term. Because the would-be line isn’t as fast as the government run lines in other countries.

      1. Fine, make fun. But the fact is, the lower speeds:

        1. Make many of the already poor comparisons to Europe (due to vastly different geography & population density) even less valid

        2. Reduces the one of the advantages rail has over driving – the travel time. If you can’t save a significant amount of time, trains are much less compelling.

        1. OK…so if we actually built high speed rail (which I would vastly prefer over the current plans), you guys would be all for it, right?

        2. I hate comparing anything to Europe, and rarely do.

          As far as drive-time, I really would spend a little more time on a train. Let’s say 7 hours to Chicago on a train, versus 5 hours driving. That’s about how long driving takes from my part of Wisconsin. And I hope eventually the line would become that, beyond just Madison-Milwaukee. Plus, delays on the road are a lot more common than on rail. One small accident can add an hour to that drive-time time real quick. Not to mention time isn’t a very big factor in the equation. Not everyone has a car, and gas isn’t going to be this cheap forever.

          1. You might not – but the comparisons to Europe are very common among most pro-train arguments. It shouldn’t be and the speed issue is the final nail in the coffin of that argument.

            Certainly time isn’t the only consideration. And it may be more important for some, than for others. And I get the “not everyone has a car” thing. But if we’re talking about Madison to Milwaukee, I’ve yet to see a compelling argument for what $800 Million gives us that we don’t already have with Badger Bus? The initial cost comparison is laughable – since Badger is a private company, taxpayers only pay the cost of the road which benefits hundreds of thousands of travelers. The per trip cost is much, much cheaper. And at 79 mph, there is very little time advantage. We’re left with: status symbol, and the real, but very vague and almost impossible to define network benefit. Which really only applies to intermediate routes. Madison to Milwaukee, bus and car are a better solution for most. Madison to Minneapolis might be compelling. But then, Milwaukee or Chicago to Minneapolis, air travel is a better solution for most.

            Though I suppose, if the TSA continues down the road it’s been headed lately, eventually air travel could be such a hassle that rail becomes more compelling.

      2. You’re absolutely right. But that’s only because the left does it every chance they can get. I can go through this blog and link the numerous times posters(MCM in particular) have referred to other countries as the reason why we should do the same, but I’m not going to put forth the effort. Us “anti-train crowd” hear that we need to move forward because other countries are (http://articles.cnn.com/2010-01-28/politics/obama.trains_1_high-speed-train-system-high-speed-rail-white-house?_s=PM:POLITICS), but our trains aren’t even going to go near the speed as theirs? That is absolutely ridiculous. If you want us to stop going after the high speed term, then you guys need to stop saying other countries are doing it.

        Furthermore, leaving the other countries out of this: I will be able to leave from my apartment in Milwaukee and drive to WHEREVER I want to in Madison, and get there faster than a train rider. That’s NOT “high speed” to me.

        1. You realize that the tracks that are being made are actually being built to hold that speed of those trains eventually right? I’ve read through it, I’m not sure why they’re making the trains slower, but the tracks themselves are being made to be at the same level of speed as a lot of it’s European counterparts.

          To be honest, with how you say that you can ‘drive’ to Milwaukee to Madison at that speed? That is a reason why I don’t travel much. A lot of people think they they can go that speed then wipe out of control. to me, the train for me is a way for me to relax since I’m overworked and overstressed half of the time so I don’t need to keep my eyes on the road constantly.

          This isn’t just a matter of speed, but even could be more reasonable things such as maybe taking a rest, going to the bathroom without having to step on the gas and drive off the highway, getting a bit downtime that you wouldn’t when you drive a car. Furthermore, I won’t even go bother going into the whole rising gas prices deal, which are just continuing to get worse. Luckily, it’s not as bad as 3 dollars like it was before, it’s still a pretty hefty price. If we were in a place like say, Texas? Whatever, the gas prices are usually pretty low down here, but this is Wisconsin. We’re pretty pricey.

          I think we got to stop seeing it from the perspective of just Madison to Milwaukee but the many other cities can connect to. The only reason I want this done personally is because I want northern and western Wisconsin reconnected to the rest of the state.

          1. You realize that the tracks that are being made are actually being built to hold that speed of those trains eventually right?

            Sure. 79 today, and the promise is that in a few years, they’d bump up to 110. Which is STILL below the lowest speed anyone else in the world refers to high speed rail.

            It’s not that we’re assuming everyone on the roads should be driving 80. Even assuming 65, the difference between 79 and 65 isn’t enough when you factor in that you still have to drive/taxi/bus times to and from the train stations on each end compared to door to door for your own car. As I’ve sad above – and before…why is this appreciably better than bus?

            And I know you want train service for other parts of the state, especially up here. If we didn’t have a million other things that are more important, I’d agree. It’s not that it would be a bad thing – but when you factor in the cost, the number of people who would benefit, the horrible financial position we’re already in and everything else we need to do, it just needs to be placed way down on the list of priorities.

            1. I’m thankful you’re reasonable, and do think it’s a good idea in the long run eventually.

              To me however to stop the train is actually going to shoot us more in the feet than anything else. Yes, we can either let the train go through and pay it back – or we can not the train go through and still have to pay it back. Let us take the piece of the pie, eat it, and not just sit there there twiddling our thumbs while the other states take that pie and eat it in front of us and leave us with the bill.

              I love the Badger Bus though, I just wish people wouldn’t antagonize it because ‘nobody uses it’. It’s just sometimes, you can’t rely on a bus or a plane during say a huge snowstorm. As someone who has to deal with insane Wisconsin winters and driving, it’s easy to spiral out of control. I’ll still continue to frequently use it, but if I want to say like bring my family or on a business meeting while we’re going on a trip we will take a train.

              I believe in our list of priorities, it should be the economy first as well. I think it all differs in perspective but I’ve been reading how much people were riding the trains until the very end in our state, at least from our area? They were relatively consistent and a solid number. I see this as an investment in our infrastructure where as many others see it as “We don’t need to connect with those stupid groups of hicks, all people would go to is for the Packers!!” when the Fox Cities and Green Bay are all becoming an economic power house with at least over a million people in that whole area and many respectable businesses that are growing at an impressive rate. In my mind, a place such as this? It’s important that they get connected to the rest of the world.

            2. Also as a note:

              If we didn’t spend money already? I’d say go ahead and stop the train, but the fact is this has been in plans even as early 2009 as someone who has kept track of politics.

              It’s best to let it go through, and begin to pay it back instead of paying for lawyers and attorney’s to stop it when we don’t have any money to pay them and end up having to pay for the bill regardless. If you actually read what Tom Petri says, he’s not completely against it.

              If the project is killed, Petri says, he favors using the money for deficit reduction rather than seeing it spent in other states. But even he’s not writing the obituary just yet.

              Petri told PolitiFact Wisconsin the operating cost was relatively minor in the context of the entire state budget — and he expressed interest in gestures from Madison to help pay the operating costs. Petri, a long-time member of the House Transportation Committee, says he, too, is willing to talk about the project before it’s written off.

              “I’d like to see a decision made on a common sense agreed up set of facts,” Petri said, adding that leaders must decide “whether it makes sense to pay penalties and back out.”

              Furthermore another possibility is an outside group can help fund the operation.

              An outside group could cover the operating shortfall: Madison Mayor David Cieslewicz has said the city might be willing to help with the operating costs, noting his city’s chamber of commerce and other business groups support the project.

              “We’re willing to take a look at some of the operating expenses,” said Cieslewicz aide Chris Klein. “If that’s the issue, we’re willing to help.”

              So far, there’s no action taken by the Madison City Council on the matter, but the mayor is willing to “sit down and have a conversation about it,” said Rachel Strauch-Nelson, communications director.

              I sincerely hope Walker changes that stubborn view point. The fact is, this is a nonpartisan issue that has become one and it shouldn’t be so. The only thing is Obama is for it and many people get up into a mob mentality simply because they dislike him as president – similar to how they did with Reagan, Clinton, and Bush. I think if the City of Madison and the many settlements that will connect with the train choose to actually help pay for a bunch of it? I think it should be allowed.

              Furthermore, the sooner we connect the major metropolitan areas together? (Milwaukee, Madison, and Fox Cities/Green Bay.) The sooner we can make a stronger state as a whole.

              (Admittedly, I’d love to be connected to be connected from Minneapolis to Eau Claire to Wausau to Green Bay to Appleton to Oshkosh and then Milwaukee? Nice. But that’s my idealistic side coming out. Just to have a nice circle like that around the state would be cool, but I realize that would also take a lot of money which we don’t have right now.)

          2. Nope, they won’t. The eventual top speed will be 110 mph. That is marginally better than the speeds that Amtrak attain already. And I don’t think I can drive at that speed. But what I won’t have to do is the following: go to the train station, wait for the train to arrive, depart from the station, make 1 or 2 stops or whatever is planned, arrive in Madison, wait for another form of transportaion to take me to my destination, and then finally get to my destination.

            How far do you guys think it is from Milwaukee to Madison? You have to use the restroom and take a nap in that span? That’s a silly talking point. And besides – http://www.badgerbus.com/about/fleet.aspx.

            As far as gas prices – let us drill for oil dammit.

            And fine, let’s stop looking at it from Milwaukee to Madison. There is already a train between Chicago and Minneapolis that stops in Milwaukee. It’s called the Empire Builder which I’m sure you’ve heard of, but probably hoping I have not.

            You guys cannot convince me to build this train. The really only point you have is that a train does not go through Madison and that it should. The only thing you might be able to get out of me is upgrading the existing line, but it better be faster than any alternative.

            1. Considering how much time it takes to just walk and wait, I’m pretty sure you don’t take planes too much because they have to make you wait and you have to walk in an airport huh? Listen, as much as I love my city up here of Green Bay up here, I do work for a business and often have to travel. Waiting is no issue for me as long as I get there on time and trains for the most part are able to do that historically. Do you have to wait? Certainly, but you have to wait for planes too and they’re a lot less reliable especially during storms or high winds. Similar with buses, really – I’m thankful for the transportation system as much as the far right like to make a scapegoat out of it yet are now actually praising it now.

              The train will not be for everyone but it will ultimately get a lot of people off the roads, encourage people to walk more, furthermore it will connect Madison and Milwaukee – and ultimately Green Bay and the Fox Cities. We will have our major cities connected something that should have been kept the same a long time ago. Hell, despite people saying Tom Petri is against the Rail now, if you look at his wording he’s just trying to be reasonable actually still willing to debate and talk about it if you read his statements. Then again, I know it’s pointless to argue with you – I’m just hoping someone else reads it.

              I know how exactly far it is from Milwaukee to Madison – and I know the traffic. Thank god though for the Badger Bus, because frankly Republicans always try to cut from that too and try to say along the lines of “Nobody uses it anyway.” I know there is no convincing you because likely have this view of “If I don’t use it, it’s no use to me.” Maybe not, but will you ever use a Nimitz class aircraft carrier, F-35/F-22 fighter jets, or a nuclear submarine? Are you getting anything from either war or any of the trillions and many lives we throw around the globe like Pacman Jones at a strip club? Why is that we have giving handouts to foreign countries yet when we the chance to improve our decaying infrastructure since Ronald Reagan took office and screwed up the Republican Party beyond repair from the reasonable and pragmatic individuals who stood for civil rights, civil liberties, justice and financial frugality into people who are irrational children who spend so much on lawyers that they push us further in debt. Then again, you’re the type of people to cry that you’re being taxed so much so screw the soldiers who risk their lives, right? I personally could even get into an argument of why is it when soldiers come back, they get a celebration from the conservatives but nothing else? Like trying to get back on their feet? Or are they expected to get themselves back up by their boostraps too when they are missing their legs?

              But enough on that topic, that’s a whole another can of worms and you may call me a little bitter for having many family members risk themselves for the country, get a whole ceremony for them to be all forgotten and disrespected after it’s all said and done by said conservative politicians.

              Furthermore drilling for oil – look, we need to get off of oil. Mostly for the environment, while I personally don’t think the world is going to end and we can repair the damage now – if we continue going down this path we’re going to screw ourselves over. I’m very well aware my whole existence is probably going to leave a carbon footprint – but you cannot deny the change in the atmosphere with the highway system being made because of all those cars being made on the road. Why is it the trains didn’t do as much damage before? I don’t know what reality you are in, but you’re detached enough to not see anything what is going on around you. Yes, it’s important that we have oil mind you, but it’s important that we don’t screw up one of the biggest issue that we are lucky – we have fresh water. Now let this sink as we turn back the clock to go to basic elementary – living things drink fresh water. Us included. Why is Arizona having a controversy now? Because it’s asking for a pipe of the Great Lakes to give them water. Depressing on some level that people don’t have enough water down there to support them? Absolutely, but I can’t say I didn’t see it coming due to Phoenix being made in desert.

              Fresh Water > Oil to me, on the principle that we can’t drink oil. I know yes a lot of people have their problems with radon poisoning, especially Waukesha County which I’ve read is the most polluted water in the entire state which is of all places they’re thinking of getting water from Racine or Milwaukee. On some level I’m not surprised at those terrifying rates of the cancer rates there. Overall, the high speed rail isn’t anything new or innovative, but it is a good alternative.

              This train was once upon a time supported by both parties and it unfortunately got swept up in the anti-spend movement that Reagan started – who initially lowered taxes then raised them anyway. I’m a huge supporter of cutting government spending and waste, but not at the expense of things that will truly benefit the state and country as a whole.

              7.5 million is a small amount to pay each year (I’m including the fed dollars spent, just as conservatives do) for these advantages. If you look at what our state spends each year in money in grants and loans to companies to create or save jobs it averages out to be about 45,000 (actually a little less) dollars a year per job. That means this train just has to help keep or grow one company that has 166 employees to be as good or better then the other funds we use to help support businesses in WI. Let’s do the math, 7.5 million to our population – we pay $1.32 dollars individually a year for train. Now, frankly I can’t even get a meal at that price unless I cook at home, unless I decide to go to McDonalds and well – forget about that. And yes, I hate taxes as much as everyone else but I also enjoy the fact under Doyle? The taxes have lowered. My grandparents for years had me do their tax forums, and as I look back? Why is that the taxes were so ridiculously high under Tommy Thompson? Now chances are my math might be wrong because counting the population I might have put children – but the point is it’s not going to be a lot if we just chip in.

              Right now? It really would cost more to stop it now then it would to finish it. As I said, look at New Jersey, we will spend it all on attorneys and we still have to pay that all back.

              Honestly, this reminds me of the Milwaukee region east-west corridor project that was supposed to start in the 90’s but got stopped due to politics and people just screaming no over and over. It was going to give them a New Marquette interchange, new zoo, extra lane of freeway on 94 from DT Milwaukee out to Waukesha, AND it would include a light rail like to Brookfield. Of course, what ended up was we ended up paying a lot more for something even less.

              This isn’t a Democrat v. Republican thing. You are all aware that LaHood is a republican, right? At least he has the courage to say that transportation funding is important for all forms of transportation. The stimulus gave far more than $8B to road construction, yet no one seems to complain about that. They just focus on the $8B for rail like it is the end of civilization. (Of course you will say he’s a RINO, but you can argue that even Tommy Thompson and Lee S. Dreyfus was that.)

              Wake up Republicans – this isn’t the time to take your country back. This is a time to take your own party back. Frankly, if reasonable men like say Locke on this forum ran as Republicans? I think our country would be in better shape since to me he represents the ideals of the past before Reagan took it to a hard turn right – reasonable and pragmatic compared to what they are now. Overall, I have nothing against Republicans but their policies – the biggest is their this hogwash when they never complain when it is their party doing the spending.

              Overall one thing many are ignoring regarding that is that the personal time of many people who ride those trains is valued at several hundred, some perhaps well over a thousand, dollars per hour and when you are in a train seat, you can do things like make and receive client calls, catch up on reading, take care of paperwork, writing, typing and so forth, even catch a quick bite to eat and/or a snoozebreak. Now those are activities that are not recommended when driving a car, and highly inconvenient for people flying on the plane. For these people? (including myself) You bet it’s a bargin!

              Now I don’t know if you were alive, or even remember this since you may have not lived in the area but it is precisely why Chicago’s North Western Railway through Chicago-Milwaukee-Green Bay (via Fond du Lac, Oshkosh and Appleton) service was very popular right up to the end. The Fox Valley is just the right distance from Chicago such that the train would be the best ‘daytrip’ option.

              I do think that the connection to the Fox Cities and Green Bay should be a bigger priority, but I realize the importance of Madison and Milwaukee being connected as well.

    2. I always get a kick out of that too… particularly the government part.

      On a small note, if we stop the train now, we will be a similar position as New Jersey, aka we will actually owe more money. Not a smart move.

    3. Yeah, because the Madison to Milwaukee train was the major issue of the 2010 campaign. Nope, not jobs or the economy…the election was all about the train.

  2. And of course the train from Milwaukee to Madison isn’t actually a train from Milwaukee to Madison…it will actually be a train from Chicago to Madison via Milwaukee…and hopefully eventually to Minneapolis.

    As I’ve pointed out before…the feds didn’t open I-94 when they completed the entire span from the Atlantic to Pacific…they opened bits and pieces around major cities and eventually connected it all.

    And states didn’t say…oh no…please don’t build that nasty old highway through my state…I don’t want to pay for the cost of policing it, salting and plowing it and repairing it…costs too much and I don’t see any economic advantage!

    Actually it would have better if the Interstate had never been built…we’d still have robust urban areas and local farms and recreational areas…instead of miles and miles of Walmarts, McDonalds, and Best Buys cluttering up the landscape

  3. As an aside to the continued discussion and debate…

    A further indictment of the process (as if it needed any more)…after $800 million has been taken from taxpayers (well, our children), awarded to this project and as much as $100 million has already has been spent much of it in a spending spree by a defeated politician specifically because he was defeated now the DOT has decided to hold hearings on the issue.

  4. Does it make any difference to the anti-train commenters here that Tommy Thompson, Tom Petri and Jim Sensenbrenner have all supported this project in the past? Where were you folks with your opposition then? Didn’t Scott Walker himself support this when he was in the Assembly? Someone help me understand this. Why is the train such a bugaboo now?

    Oh, that’s right, it’s going to be funded with “stimulus” money; stimulus, of course, being something akin to “satanic”.

    Scott Walker and the republicans are going to kill the train for our children’s sake? Are you serious? Really? This is as substantive an argument as you can make in opposition to the project that your favored politicians used to support?

    God help us all.

    1. Though I don’t consider myself anti-train, I suppose that’s directed as much at me as anyone.

      Does it matter? Not in the least. Who supported this or other routes in the past doesn’t come into the play in the least in my consideration of this route.

      Is it the best way for us to spend $800 million right now? How many people will benefit from that compared to other uses of the money? How much will it cost to ride, how many riders will there be, and what will it cost to operate. Those things matter. What Thompson said about this 10 years ago or 10 days ago doesn’t.

      As to this “satanic” stimulus crack…not sure if that actually deserves a serious response.

  5. It appears to me that this boils down to the same thing that national politics has boiled down to – power! The republicans are obsessed with power and hence, cant allow the democrats to have a win. if the rail succeeds then they would not be able to take credit for it, so there will be no rail. Its that simple.

    Now locke I truly think you and others like you, your opposition to the train is sincere. However I do not think Walker is that ideological, i think of all the people in WI, he is one of THE most power hungry.

  6. Do any of you know why Thompson, Walker, Petri and Sensenbrenner have historically supported the rail line? Anyone? Something to do with jobs, economic development, long term budget savings, that kind of thing? I guess it really doesn’t matter. They’re against it now; that’s all that matters.

    But what if they’re for it tomorrow? Then, and I’m just guessing now, it probably won’t really matter that they were opposed to it just yesterday.

    Buuut, what if they decide, yet again, that this time they’re really, really truly absolutely opposed to it even though, just a couple of days ago, they switched themselves and decided they were actually for it? I gotta go. My head hurts.

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