Fast trains are something to celebrate

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

Someone called in to that renowned passenger rail naysayer Mitch Henck’s talk radio show the other day to fulminate about the money that the federal government is giving to Wisconsin for high-speed rail between here and Milwaukee.

The money would be better spent on building more and bigger highways, the caller huffed. He was joined by others who I’m sure spend most of their waking hours worshiping the car gods.

Like we don’t spend money on highways! The callers are blissfully unaware that the $800 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that Wisconsin is getting for rail would barely cover the price tag of the Marquette Interchange, which was rebuilt in downtown Milwaukee two years ago. Nor would it be enough to cover half the costs of the new Zoo Interchange, which will be rebuilt in coming years on the western edge of Milwaukee County (emergency repairs costing up to $15 million are now under way at that location).

It’s also far short of the cost estimates to redo the Verona Road-West Beltline intersection, which the state Department of Transportation will undertake in the next few years.

And those are just interchanges — not 80 miles of roadbed and track and new train stations and passenger platforms along the way.

That cars-are-the-only-thing attitude has led to the neglect of passenger rail in America, putting us at the bottom of the world’s developed countries in providing citizens with transportation options. It has played a big part in the nation’s rating as the No. 1 waster of fossil fuel energy in the world. Of that, we should be proud?