Legislature could "Just Say No" to rail money

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

Some Legislators are already complaining about the strings that will come attached to the $810 million in federal stimulus money to connect Madison and Milwaukee by passenger rail.

The gripe for those like Sen. Alberta Darling (R-Menomonee Falls) is that Wisconsin cannot afford the ongoing operational subsidies that would be required for a new train line.

So could Wisconsin "Just Say No" to High Speed Rail?

Yes, says Chris Klein of the state Department of Transportation.

"It will have to go through Joint Finance" the budget controllling committee of the Legislature, he notes.

And the Legislature could say "We don't want no stinkin', half-empty, traffic clogging, whistle-blowing train just so Madison libs can feel good about themselves."

But rejecting the rail funds would mean the federal money is lost and could not be applied to other transportation uses.

"The money is a grant, like any other grant," says Klein. "It is for a specific purpose."

The question, of course, is how much would it cost the state each year to operate the Madison-Milwaukee train including repairs, maintenance and purchase of replacement equipment.

Klein says those figures have not been calculated and won't be known until further down the road.

But he notes that all modes of transportation in Wisconsin -- buses, highways, bicycles, harbors, etc. -- are subsidized through the state's $6.8 billion transportation fund.