Scott Walker’s higher speed rail boondoggle

This is worth a read.

Walker won and trains lost. He quickly moved to kill the Milwaukee to Madison part of the project, but he claimed to support upgrades to the Hiawatha line. Meanwhile, Talgo was already well along in the construction of two sets of trains to serve that line. In fact, the state has already paid Talgo $40 million for those trains, and it paid another $12 million to other vendors, for a total cost so far of $52 million.

But Walker, apparently backed into a corner by extremist legislators who were even more anti-train than he was, decided to renege on even the Hiawatha trains.

So Talgo filed a claim against the state for an additional $66 million in unpaid invoices and other losses due to the deal gone bad. That claim was recently denied by the state as expected, and a formal lawsuit is likely.

To add insult to injury, in May the completed trains were unceremoniously moved from the now abandoned Milwaukee Talgo plant for Indiana, where it is possible they will become part of the Wolverine line connecting Chicago to Detroit. And, in fact, Illinois is paying for an extension of Amtrak service to Rockford, and plans are in place to also go from Rockford to Dubuque. From there it’s not hard to imagine completing the line to the Twin Cities and bypassing Wisconsin altogether.

Walker claimed that he opposed the 100% federally funded train because of the annual operating costs to the state, which amounted to around $7 million. But now the state is on the line for as much as $118 million, for which it will have received nothing at all. In other words, for the dollars the governor has put at risk, the state could have funded the new train operation for about a decade and a half.

Had Walker not been elected governor, the Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison service would have started a year ago. Sleek new trains would have been connecting us and providing economic development opportunities not just in Milwaukee but in other places along the line. A train station near Monona Terrace would be bustling and contributing to a revival of that portion of Madison’s downtown. Even more importantly, Wisconsin would have been literally on the map as the first place in the country outside of the northeast corridor to be served by new higher-speed passenger rail.

Instead, Wisconsin now ranks a consistent 37th in job creation under Walker, the Talgo plant and its Milwaukee jobs are gone, the Madison station never happened and the ancillary development around it is on the ropes, our own tax dollars are on their way to build the same kind of system in other states, and we’re still on the hook for as much as $118 million. Even if we don’t end up paying out that much, every dollar that is lost will be lost completely.


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28 thoughts on “Scott Walker’s higher speed rail boondoggle

  1. Few things more worthless than a halfast train that goes slower and more expensive than a bus. Another idiot Doyle idea. Buses run all day at lower cost, go faster and take you right to the square meaning you do not have to walk or take a cab. Why dont the Liberals chip in and buy it for us for Christmas, they left us with enough debt and fiscal mess.

  2. “Another idiot Doyle idea.”

    Correction – a Tommy Thompson idea.

    “Buses run all day at lower cost, go faster and take you right to the square meaning you do not have to walk or take a cab.”

    Busses get stuck in congestion, and don’t provide a direct link to the Chicago hub where 37% of home buyers consider proximity to rail when buying a home.

    1. California has had one big problem after another, 52% now want to ditch it, prices have gone way up and will easily go over 100 billion. Think how much we would have had to cut school aids to build and run this turkey. Scott saved us billion by dumping the exchange idea, the Medicaid mess and the Teachers Union.

    2. Between Milwaukee and Madison there is expressway till the last little bit and very little congestion. Rail between Mil/Chi is good but we do not need high speed. if we did not have such good expressway system in most of the country, Rail is good in NEast., but it failed in the 70’s why ressurect a dead horse. Conservatives are the real Progressives looking for new solutions to problems instead of trying to go back to wind and horses.

      1. Robert,

        My 11:30 am was to you also. I was asking for information backing your previous claims.

        I agree conservatives are continually looking for and wanting solutions. Trouble comes for them in the “finding,” any part of that equation, as also appears to be a problem for you in backing your claims.

      2. Dohnal,

        if you had a job, you’d understand how important HSR (as a part of integrated multi-modal transport) is. Employers want their employees working. Wi-fi enabled HSR and street cars allow workers to be more infinitely more productive than if they have to drive their vehicle.

        If you were a conservative, you’d know that the root is “conserve.” Unless you think you can live without eating, you have to support the immediate abandonment of the release of green house gasses into the atmosphere. Failure to do that is just stealing from your children and grandchildren.

        If you were a real conservative, you’d understand that NATIONAL security starts with LOCAL security. Local security rests on water, food, and energy security. How’s Waukesha doing with their radium problem?

        What’s the wingnut solution?

        Ignoring the environmentalists is what cost us the commercial fishing industry in Lake Michigan.

        “The Decline of a Once-Great Fishery”

        What’s the wingnut solution?

        1. for those with a small aount of comprehsion on what the problems this state has I will explain. Our problems: Drime, heorin, MPS, abandoen houses, bad buses routes, poverty, 57% unemployment, human traffickingcirruption, high taxes bad business area. those are the things we need to solve, not toys like street cars, Arens and halfast trains.

          1. Robert,

            Everyone already realizes that there are multiple factors involved in Walker’s failure to do anything about creating jobs or improving the state economy. You made comments here specific to the original topic of passenger HSR. This is my third request for you to provide some actual information to back your POV. Apparently you cannot, so you resort to bad-mouthing the intelligence of others here, and you persist in attempting to change the subject. Cheap Tricks, Bob. Conservatives have the questions, but where are your answers?

            OT, Can you fix me up with a rental (business and residential) in your fair city?

              1. Didn’t expect you had any other answers, ones to back your HSR claims. Thanks Bob, I do understand that facts to back conservative rhetoric can be difficult to provide.

          2. Dohnal,

            Were you drunk-posting last night?

            Can you translate for us?

            “aount” = ?

            “comprehsion” = ?

            “Drime” = ?

            “heorin” = ?

            “abandoen” = ?

            “bad buses routes” = ?

            “57% unemployment” do you have a link?

            “traffickingcirruption” = ?

            “Arens” = ?

            “halfast” = ?

            Dohnal, for when you get to be a conservative:

            “Demand Leakages: The 800lb Economist in the Room”

            “(Federal) Taxes for revenue are obsolete”

            “…The necessity for a government to tax in order to maintain both its independence and its solvency is true for state and local governments, but it is not true for a national government. Two changes of the greatest consequence have occurred in the last twenty-five years which have substantially altered the position of the national state with respect to the financing of its current requirements.

            The first of these changes is the gaining of vast new experience in the management of central banks.

            The second change is the elimination, for domestic purposes, of the convertibility of the currency into gold….”


              1. You’d better stick to posting on WEAU, Strawman. You have all your other names there to agree with and up-vote your drivel. Here, not so much.

  3. I wish we had a train- there is no public transportation after 9pm (no bus) between madison and milwaukee. Would help for transportation between airports, reduce drunk driving (think game days and after 2am) and ease congestion on the highway.

  4. Robert,

    What in CA is having a series of big problems, link perhaps, and kindly not one from RW media crackers? Is the CA project you are referring to anything in comparison to the size and scope of what was going to be the Milwaukee to Madison run? You’ve not taken into consideration at all, economic benefits to eventually also being a connecting point to Minn/St Paul as a part of a nation-wide plan. You are absolutely ignoring the estimates for potential new economic growth that rail service would bring. Connections are now skirting/bypassing WI.

    You missed or are ignoring the mention of 15 years worth of operating costs and the entire actual construction costs either turned away or wasted by Scooter already. $1B of WI taxpayer money burned with nothing to show for it in WI. You are also ignoring the jobs building rail cars that could have produced living wage jobs (as if that were ever Scooter’s real objective).

    Walker cut $1.6B from education anyway, even without the rail. How WI residents paying near $1M a day in higher health care costs because Scooter didn’t get an exchange going here and accept the Fed money is a “savings,” must be some new kind of magic. Interesting that you bring Medicaid and Union bashing into determining the value of passenger rail. Does not apply at all.

    1. There’s already a train going from Mke to Minn, it’s called the Empire builder, why do we need two?

  5. …water under the bridge. If HS rail works so well in other lands WI can always do it later.

    1. ig, love the optimism. Do you have any basis for it? What climate scientist are you referencing? How many more years of steady growing seasons do we have? How long before droughts, floods, and general climate instability cause famine?

        1. Certified at what? Or did you perhaps mean certifiable? Coincidentally or not, there was another winger commenter on this site just the other day struggling to define common English words.

          When I travel overseas and also Progressive pockets of the U.S., I find I make use of each mode of transportation – cars in the countryside, bus/metro in the city and trains make quick work of regional travel (plus, you get so much more work done). Options and flexibility. That’s what today’s highly-skilled, productive and well-heeled workers desire as do the companies who need them. Walker muffed this one for Wisconsin businesses.

    1. Walker likely sees himself on the right but yes, this was one his many failures. And you may wish to check your spelling.

        1. Still wondering what your post is about. Are you trying to communicate? If so, with whom and in what language?

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