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Repubs On Track to Block All High Speed Rail Projects

February 11, 2011

I see on tonight’s ABC News that the House Republicans want to cut all “Obama” high speed rail projects. There is more to this than meets the eye.

Let’s take one rail example: Madison to Milwaukee Project

I know this area – I am from a small town in between these two cities. A study back in September 2010 stated the project would create 13,000 new jobs. The Milwaukee Business Journal reported:

WISPIRG (Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group), a Madison-based public interest advocacy group that supports high-speed rail, on Monday released the report touting potential benefits of running passenger trains between Milwaukee and Madison. The study includes analyses of high-speed rail service in all of the Midwest states.

The study was paid for by donations from the Patrick and Anna M. Cudahy Fund, Evanston, Ill., RE-AMP, an association of 114 nonprofit organizations, the Rockefeller Foundation of New York City, and the Surdna Foundation of New York City.

In addition to creating new jobs, the rail service between Milwaukee and Madison would eliminate 780,000 car trips annually and save 2.76 million gallons of gas a year, according to the report.

Read more: Study: High-speed rail will create 13,000 jobs | The Business Journal

In a related story in the Milwaukee Courier we read that the newly elected Republican Governor, Scott Walker, opposed the rail project. What, you say? Yes indeed. This has become quite the controversy in the cheese state. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Hood stated:

“I respect the power of governors to make decisions for their states,” LaHood wrote. “There seems to be some confusion, however, about how these high-speed rail dollars can be spent. For this reason, I would like to set the record straight: None of the money provided to Wisconsin may be used for road or highway projects, or anything other than high-speed rail. Consequently, unless you change your position, we plan to engage in an orderly transition to wind down Wisconsin’s project so that we do not waste taxpayers’ money.”

Former Governor Jim Doyle put the project on pause after Walker’s victory and meeting with him, where he expressed his continued opposition to the project. Doyle released a statement… explaining in more detail his position.

“When President Obama announced his initial investment in modern high speed rail for this country, Wisconsin was the biggest winner. States across the country, with rail projects totaling $55 billion, were competing for the $8 billion that was available. The $823 million Wisconsin received is more than 10 percent of all the funds awarded nationally for high speed rail projects. And Wisconsin was the only state to receive all of the funds it applied for.”

“We have gotten this project to the point where construction work is ready to begin immediately. Right now, people could be at work constructing land bridges and more. I could push forward full steam ahead on this project, play brinksmanship. In fact, we could spend or obligate hundreds of millions of dollars.

“While I could force the issue, I believe that this project will only be successful in the long run if the State of Wisconsin and the U.S. Department of Transportation are strong partners. For that reason, I have put the project on pause, so that the U.S. DOT and the Governor-elect can confer about the future of the high speed rail project. If Governor- elect Walker opposes the project, U.S. DOT has made it clear that the money will go to one of the many other states that intend to move forward with high speed passenger rail.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense to not move ahead, but we have had an election. There has been a lot of politics played with this issue, but I have to deal in the real world and think about how this affects real jobs and the real lives of people in Wisconsin.

“There are real consequences for not going forward. Over 400 Wisconsin workers were scheduled to work on the project over the next several months and now face the real possibility of being laid off. Over $14 million in expenses incurred over the last six months will need to be paid for by Wisconsin taxpayers. Necessary upgrades to the existing Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago totaling $82 million will no longer be eligible for federal assistance, shifting costs from the federal government to the state. These include $18 million in platform renovations at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station necessary to bring the platform into compliance with federal safety regulations; $12 million for platform renovations at the Milwaukee Airport Station and other important improvements to the existing Hiawatha line; and $52 million for a facility to maintain new Hiawatha train sets.

“It is my understanding that in the coming days, the U.S. Department of Transportation will reach out to Governor-elect Walker about the project so that he fully understands these consequences. There has been talk that this money could be used for roads. That is pure fiction. There are already states lined up with rail projects waiting for us to turn back this money. 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.”

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) wrote a letter addressed to both Governor Doyle and Governor-elect Walker expressing that continuing the high-speed rail project is critical to Wisconsin. In her letter she says that this project is critical because it offers more options to connect people to their jobs and that it is an economic win-win for our state.

“This is especially true for low-income people, many of whom have no viable transportation option and can’t get to where the jobs are. And as part of the vision of a nationwide high speed rail network, the economic benefits to our state will be plentiful.

“In Milwaukee, Talgo will create jobs building cars for high speed rail. They will build cars for the rails in Oregon, and they should be able to build rail cars to be used in Wisconsin as well. Stopping work on the project puts these jobs in great jeopardy. This is about our future, not about our past. We all share the same goal of creating good jobs for Wisconsinites. The election is over, and this shouldn’t be about politics. It should be about people and family-supporting jobs. Undoubtedly, building a high speed rail line creates jobs. And more jobs will come once it is operational.

“Furthermore, the truth remains, if the funding isn’t used in Wisconsin for high-speed rail, the funding will not be used in Wisconsin at all. Sending this funding back is misguided and does nothing to help Wisconsin taxpayers. If anything, it sends their money away to build the high-speed rail somewhere else. As it stands today, Wisconsin gets less back from the Federal government than Wisconsinites pay in Federal taxes. Sending $810 million back to Washington only makes this worse.”

Well, the fact is, Wisconsin lost all of its DOT money for the project. It went to Florida and California. On December 9, 2010 the Madison Examiner reported:

This afternoon U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Federal Railroad Administration would redirect $810 million for Wisconsin’s Madison-Milwaukee high-speed rail (HSR) corridor to one of the other states that is still pursuing HSR. The surprise announcement effectively kills the controversial HSR project in Wisconsin. Governor elect Scott Walker adamantly opposed HSR as a waste and boondoggle in his election campaign.

Continue reading on Examiner.com: Feds kill Wisconsin high-speed rail project – Madison Headlines | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/headlines-in-madison/feds-kill-wisconsin-high-speed-rail-project#ixzz1DcLKbfoH

City of Madison Mayor Dave Cielewicz said, “This is a black day for Wisconsin’s economy. The 5,000 or so construction workers who could have been employed over the course of the next few months building high speed rail have Scott Walker to thank for their continued unemployment,” in a news release.

Continue reading on Examiner.com: Feds kill Wisconsin high-speed rail project – Madison Headlines | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/headlines-in-madison/feds-kill-wisconsin-high-speed-rail-project#ixzz1DcLeOo8y

So why did Governor Walker oppose the rail project? Because it was part of the GOP platform to not give one victory to the Obama administration by creating badly needed jobs. Now the newly elected House Republicans are following suit calling for complete gutting of all DOT high speed rail projects. Damn shameful!

It get’s better. In today’s Forbes.com Governor Walker is going after union workers — attacking collective bargaining.

Governor Walker is opposed to wind energy development and calling for strict regulations while allowing other regulations to lapse in favor of dirty energy providers.

See how this works folks?

Related blog post, click here

And here from Democurmudgeon:

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Friday that would allow a developer to construct a retail center favored by the Green Bay Packers on a wetland near Lambeau Field.

Walker introduced the legislation in January at the request of the developer after planning had slowed for a Bass Pro Shops, or another retailer, for a store at Highway 41 and Lombardi Ave. in Ashwaubenon, a suburb of Green Bay. (Bass pulled out, refused to build on wetland.)

The measure drew objections from environmentalists but was applauded by the business community. Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison.) said Walker signed the bill will little fanfare, arguing “he realized how bad a bill it was.”

“You are taking away citizens’ rights to challenge projects like these,” he said.

When citizens want to protect their wetlands and their environment Republicans complain business is being blocked and that it’s ‘job killing.’ Regulations are job killers. Union wages are budget busters. Wind farms are not part of their support big oil agenda. It just goes on and on. They are content to advance their polluting agenda, their cheap wages corporate rhetoric, their basic destructive and disturbing ideology that favor the wealthy and corporations who run roughshod over everyday Americans.

Meanwhile, Britain is planning a high speed rail project and estimates are it will create 8,000 jobs.

Categories: Politics, Trends
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