State faces $210 million train bill

After turning down federal high-speed rail funds in a grand gesture of political theatre, Republican Gov. Scott Walker and state officials now find themselves in a bit of a pickle, as they have to figure out how to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars of work needed to keep the existing Amtrak service running between Milwaukee and Chicago. Last week, the federal government rejected the state’s request for more than $150 million to fund the purchase of new locomotives, passenger cars and a maintenance base to upgrade the Hiawatha line. The federal government also rejected a bid for nearly $60 million in related track, signal and engineering work.

You’ll remember that shortly after he was elected governor, Scott Walker announced he would refuse to build an extension of the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Madison, an extension that was part of a larger plan to connect Chicago with Minneapolis/St. Paul and other destinations. Thanks to Gov. Walker’s stated refusal to accept federal funding for the high speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, the the federal government pulled nearly all of the $810 million stimulus grant that would have paid for the long-planned Milwaukee to Madison rail line.

After the rejection of its requests by the federal government, the state is faced with just over $209 million in costs for the existing service, a gap that narrows to just $139.6 million once federal and state funding commitments are factored in.

I wonder where Scott Walker and his Republican supporters will find an extra $139.6 million just laying around to spend on high speed rail, especially given how bad they say Wisconsin’s biennial budget deficit is.


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9 thoughts on “State faces $210 million train bill

  1. Un-freakin’ believable! How I wish we had train service btw. Milwaukee and Madison.

  2. If there are not enough riders for Amtrak to make the route profitable and if Amtrak cannot afford to keep the line updated then it’s time to shut down the money losing rail line.

  3. The “rail thing” Irks me to no end. Indeed, rail is an expensive proposition. No to be done willynilly. But it becomes very efficient and cost effective when those costs are shared broadly. Yes, I’m talking taxes. And people tend to look at passenger rail as strictly a “commuter” solution. There is commuting value but also just being able to get around not to mention HSR solutions for travel between cities.

    I for one don’t give a rats ass about liberal or conservative. Some focused problem solving is all that’s required.

  4. We have a group of 13 people going to Florida in March of 2012. We have been working on the logistics end of it, we looked at airlines and AMTRAK, when you add up the cost of tickets and then the rental vehicles when we get there. I was really amazed at the cost of rail travel from Milwuakee to Orlando and then 3 days to do it.

    I can rent a 32′ RV for all of us, take one day to get there and will save me between $1800 to $2400. So roadtrip it is next year!

    1. That’s because you have 13 people. I guarantee you that if you wanted to travel by air, it would be way, way more expensive than by rail.

      1. Amtrak is often more expensive on long runs…where rail can be most cost effective is in short hops from like Milwaukee to Minneapolis or Chicago to St. Louis…particularly if we had real high speed rail where $$$ as well as travel time would be competitive.

        1. I was really surprsed to the costof Amtrak on a long route like that. I was really disappointed I thought it would have been a great adventure with the grandkids.

  5. Actually if we flew Alligent Air the round trip was around $250 per person the problem there was the return flight was 7:45 am and being 1-1/2 from the airport and traveling with several children 5 or younger it would have been a nightmare. The rental of vans once there would have been another huge chunk, Amtrak would have been mor expensive as far as the tickets went. RV will be a fun adventure have not decided if we will ret a SUV when we get there just for optional travel options or take a van with us.

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