Editorial: Green Bay needs to get on fast track

Thursday, February 04, 2010

From an editorial in the Green Bay Press Gazette:

As the state and federal governments press forward to improve passenger rail service through the Midwest, Green Bay and other points north of Madison and Milwaukee must have a respected voice in that discussion.

With the announcement last week that the federal government will send Wisconsin $823 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the state is on track to start construction of a high-speed railroad line between Milwaukee and Madison by the end of this year. The line would carry people between those cities and Chicago at speeds of up to 110 mph by 2013.

The project also includes planning and environmental work to lay the groundwork to continue the line through to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Wisconsin Commerce Secretary Richard Leinenkugel said he saw the economic development implications when he accompanied Gov. Jim Doyle to Spain last year. During a visit with the Green Bay Press-Gazette editorial board Monday, he described a community about an hour's drive south of Madrid that has blossomed since a high-speed rail station cut the traveling time in half. . . .

The White House fact sheet describing the Madison-Milwaukee project notes that 76 percent of Wisconsin's total population lives within 30 miles of the stations in that corridor. But a review of the latest U.S. Census estimates reveals that half of the rest of the state's population lives in Brown, Outagamie, Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties.

In other words, advance the link between Green Bay and Milwaukee and almost 90 percent of the state's population would have access, and the possibilities of widening economic beyond the Milwaukee-Madison corridor also would improve. To put a finer point on the matter, the state will be called upon to pay its share of any high-speed rail project and Northeastern Wisconsin must be considered more than an upstate revenue source for a downstate project.