We Can Work It Out
November 5, 2010 2:52 PM
Governor Jim Doyle has hit the pause button on high speed rail. That's ok as long as it's temporary. It might be appropriate for the governor to survey the landscape after Tuesday's elections and see what the best course of action might be going forward. But there's no doubt that we should go forward.
I've listened closely to Governor-Elect Scott Walker's statements since his election and his concerns about high speed rail seem to come down to two things. He hopes that somehow the $825 million in federal support to pay for 100% of the construction of the project can be used for roads instead. It can't. In fact, even the new Republican Chair of the House Transportation Committee is a big supporter of high speed rail and he and the President just aren't going to let states spend money that is intended for rail on roads. What's going to happen instead is that states that reject the money will see it spent, and see those jobs created, in another state that does want it.
We know this funding will create thousands of jobs, but our choice now is whether they are created in Florida, Michigan or Wisconsin.
Scott Walker's other issue is the relatively small operating subsidy that the state would pay once the line is up and running. It's projected to be around $7.5 million out of DOT's $3.4 billion budget or less than a quarter of a percent. Still, if that's a sticking point, well then let's figure out a way to address it. Do we really want to give up $825 million in investment that will just go to another state, and maybe 4,000 or so construction jobs for such a small part of DOT's budget?
I've sent a letter to the Governor-Elect suggesting a meeting between state, federal and local officials. The Beatles were right. We can work it out.
A link to my letter is here: http://www.cityofmadison.com/mayor/documents/hsrletter.pdf