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.