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Ending High-Speed Rail In Wisconsin, And The End Of The ‘Can-Do’ Spirit

November 4, 2010

The news that Governor Doyle requested his DOT Secretary to stop the current work on the high-speed rail project in southern Wisconsin was most unsettling.  To seemingly buckle to the whims of the next governor who was only elected two days ago, and will not take office for two months, makes for more than a few irate people in this state.

We all know that rail is an earth-friendly mode of transportation.  The economic stimulus it would provide for those in the construction trades now, and the business people and tourists who would make it profitable in the future, make this project a no-brainer.  Everywhere in the world where high-speed train was constructed progress has followed.

Therefore to have had this common-sense project turned into a political football these past months has made me think about the larger picture of where we are as a country, a state, and a people.  What are we capable of doing as a society when it comes to leaping forward in meaningful ways?

Everywhere I turn I see the huge undertakings that history tells me are all ones that should be easily accomplished either barely stumbling over the finish line, or mangled so bad they never get off the ground.

Health care was such a tortured process that those who voted for it cowered in fear when they went back home to campaign for re-election.  Stem cell research which has the potential to allow for huge dramatic discoveries to stem the misery of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is being undermined by out-dated reasoning for partisan purposes.

So when I read the news today that Doyle had suspended work on the high-speed rail line from Madison to Milwaukee I was more than upset about just the project itself.  I was also questioning if we as a people have the ability to do the big things that this country was once noted for?  Are we so filled with fear post 9/11, and economic anxiety that no large dreams are worth the investment of our spirit and sweat?

I was one of those lucky kids in 1969 old enough to be aware, and yet young enough to be absolutely thunderstruck, when man stepped onto the moon.  That night is as crystal clear to me as if I had placed the boot on the lunar surface myself.  But to get that historic moment completed took education dollars and research funds and a driving force of political will by our leaders.

Our leaders once told us to look upwards and outwards. 

Today we are reminded we can’t even build a high-speed train track from Madison to Milwaukee.

Is this really the way we want our state and country to be?

9 Comments
  1. Patrick permalink
    November 6, 2010 10:12 PM

    This has degenerated a bit into a laughable sort of poem. Lets agree to disagree for now. 🙂

  2. MaryB permalink
    November 6, 2010 8:35 PM

    Wow, your levels of Passive Aggressiveness are almost as high as mine. Good Job!

    I am not mad at you, I am disagreeing with you, about taxes, the train, Scott Walkers promises. Sorry if I got off track <–I am just so funny, don't deny it you know I am. 😉 WOW, I guess you are right I don't know how to follow a linear argument.

    And your "show some respect" comment did get me a little feisty. You know if you are going to throw that out there and don't intend it to be insulting, putting "to the taxpayers" might have been a good idea.

    So why don't we wait for the studies to come in and evaluate the FACTS, instead of arguing with crap pulled off the internet.

    I don't know why you are so angry, I just wanted to express my opinion and you get all heated over it…sheesh! (I find Passive Aggressiveness is an art form….and you are good at it, too! Two Thumbs Up!!)

  3. Patrick permalink
    November 6, 2010 5:42 PM

    Mary:

    I meant be safe in terms of arriving on time to catch train. You hurl a lot of anger at me. Why are you so upset?

    You should have respect for tax payers, not me personally.

    My tax dollars do go to support the UW system and your daughter’s education.

    I don’t know why you are bringing up WMD’s and all that other stuff. Badger Care, Education, Firefighters–these are not the topic. Don’t you know how to follow a linear argument?

    As far as the train goes, tell me what real problem the train would solve? I’m sure it would be “nice”, but that is not a responsibility of government.

  4. MaryB permalink
    November 6, 2010 3:08 PM

    You are sure assuming a lot! But I understand it is hard for you people to believe anything after buying the WMD excuse hook line and sinker when President Bush lied to get us to invade Iraq. I am sorry your faith in this country and ‘the future’ have been destroyed by a Conservative party run amok. I understand your need to grasp you wallet tight and hate everyone around you who might ask you to help. I think ALL the Bush tax cuts should be eliminated and that we should start paying our bills for a change. And if that includes money for education, health care, and a high speed rail line, so be it. That would be money spent here in our country on our citizens. You didn’t have a problem with tax cuts while fighting 2 wars? Where do you think the money for that came from? I get that it has been hard on you conservatives to come to grips with the off color of our President, I get it.

    Do not assume that you pay more in taxes than I do. Do not assume that you pay for my daughters education. Do not assume that I won’t be safe at the station in Milwaukee! (Um..exactly what was that about?) Don’t assume that I drive like a little old lady, OK I do, but unless you were stuck in traffic behind me last weekend on my way to Madison…YOU CAN”T ASSUME THAT ;). I can afford a train ticket, lunch, a cab, parking downtown, and to pay to educate your children and mine. I can afford to make life better for all American’s, because they are my people. You know what else I can afford, sitting here listening to you lecture me on how I should show you some respect. I am sure you believe you deserve it, but respect is something you have to earn. So you keep that wallet close. Fight for tax cuts for the wealthy while complaining about the wealthy and I will continue fighting for YOU! I know I am so selfish to think that this country should be brought into the 21 st Century, and yes it is all going to cost us!

    So like I said, get rid of the train, get rid of Badger Care, get rid of taxes for the top 10%, get rid of all those pesky Government jobs, like teacher, cops, firefighter, postmen, get rid of Pell Grants and Social Security and Medicare. Get rid of it all, because then I will have so much more money in my wallet. But I would rather have a country where people are happy and healthy, employed and transported and for that I deserve NO respect…I get it!

  5. Patrick permalink
    November 6, 2010 12:41 PM

    Mary: where do federal funds come from? How does money spent on the Hiawatha line equate to funding for the car-speed train? Hopes? Really, Mary? And while I doubt the figure in the article, the real question is: Why don’t you?

    You’re right about the gas money–I was likely optomistic, but not by much. My old CRV does the trip on a half tank, so there and back is still about 25 bucks. As far as getting to MAdison in half the time, that’s a laugh. You get in the car. Drive to the station. Arrive early to get a ticket and be safe. Borad the train which might reach 70mph outside of any city limits. Exit the train. Kill time as the train gets in early. Walk to dauther’s place. Walk back to train (because you can’t afford a cab, having spent so much on the train itself.) Wait at station for train. My question is: how slow do you drive?

    I’m glad your daughter is at Madison; I’m happy to subsidize her tuition, but must I also pay for your lunch trip, too? How selfish. This train is all about making things easier for rich people or businessmen who could easily drive to Madison. As far as the vaunted job creation associated with rail service, visit the milwaukee terminal which is already in financial trouble or the “booming” trade around Sturtevant.

    And in the end if this keeps $1.50 in my pocket, that is my money. I work hard for it. You should show some respect.

  6. MaryB permalink
    November 5, 2010 11:13 PM

    Well Patrick, then let him do it. I don’t have a problem with that. Get rid of the train! But the money goes too. Scott has been tell you all along that he is going to take that whopping $810 million and put on our road…well sorry, but that money will go to New York State for their High Speed Rail.
    And what about the $3 million spent at the Talgo plant in Milwaukee? Well I guess we awful Milwaukee Liberals will learn our lesson and stop trying to create jobs without the Republican approval! We will lose Talgo and to quote Fox New (Channel 6 Milwaukee) “450 jobs in all would be created if the company remains, if you count the other businesses and vendors the company would use”. They planned to base the Mid-West Headquarter here in Milwaukee…but bye-bye!

    Now let us see about that $7-$9 million a year you are talking about in operating costs. According to a JS Online article: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/106488923.html

    “Operating costs are projected at $7.5 million a year, not counting the part covered by fares. But Renlund said the state is already using federal funds to cover 90% of the Hiawatha’s $5.2 million annual operating cost – leaving $520,000 a year for state taxpayers to pick up – and hopes to do the same with the new line. That would mean state taxpayers would be paying $750,000 a year for the service to Madison.”

    Let me guess you don’t believe that figure…wow, I am shocked. That is OK, as I said kill it! Pay all the lawsuits associated with the breaking of contracts, lose Talgo Mid-West Headquarters, lose the 55 permanent jobs, go ahead. It might save you a buck-fifty in your tax paying pocket a year, but that is a $1.50 I am sure you will put to good use. (I just guessed at that number, no hard facts to back up the $1.50, I just thought that looked good…see I won’t lie to you!)

    Now on to the serious stuff! How the heck do you get from Germantown to Madison and back on $10…what do you drive, one of those hippy cars? I bet you gots one of them Prius foreign jobs, dontcha? Shoot, I go to Madison quite often, my daughter is at the University. I have a good American (German?) Made Dodge Ram 1500 Quad-Cab Pick-up, Republican Red, and it costs me $27.53 (yes I figured it out to the penny!) one way! I, for one, would be willing to fork over the extra couple of bucks it cost, if in 1/2 the time I could run to Madison and take my daughter out for lunch when she is missing her Momma!

  7. Patrick permalink
    November 5, 2010 5:32 PM

    Mary:

    At most the car-speed rail line was to employ 4600 people, but the number or premanant jobs would have been 55. How can we justify 7 to 9 million in operating costs (I’m sure it would actually be much more as no government rail project has ever cost less than predicted). Also, there is no reasonable way to see that enough people would ever ride the train at $40+ to help the train pay for itself. I can get to Madison from Germantown and back for about $10 in gas.

    What is irresponsible is for Doyle to move forward so quickly with an unpopular project when it was clear all along that the guy about to be elected was going to kill the project. Doyle is a child throwing a tantrum. Let the partially completed work rot there as a reminder of why one shouldn’t vote for democrats.

    As far as the “can do” spirit–I think Tuesday night proved that we can. Walker will absolutely kill this project. The feds will not fight him on it, especially now that democrats have been completely removed from power. Walker, unlike Doyle, keeps his promises.

  8. November 5, 2010 3:10 PM

    I think you missed the mark on this one. The project has been suspended to show Wisconsinites what we will be losing. All the jobs that will be lost, the grants, the money already spent. Scott Walker walked all over this state saying “I am going to take that $810 Million and spend it on roads!” while being told that the money will be gone if he doesn’t use it on rail. The total ignorance of the voters to believe him says a lot about the people of Wisconsin…and not in a good way! By suspending the project we are given the opportunity to see what would actually happen if Walker stopped the project (which I don’t believe he would have done, but he would have screamed holy hell about it the whole 4 years of his first, and hopefully last term.) Here in Milwaukee we have spent $3 Million on Talgo moving into the old Tower Automotive grounds, that is money we won’t get back and with all the other contracts already in the works, imagine all the money we will have to pay to get out of them.

    Governor Doyle is trying to prove that it is “cheaper to keep her” and I am sorry after watching the panic on the TV news last night about this, it think is was a spectacular move! It also forces Walker’s hand. Is he willing to back scrapping this project if it is going to cost Wisconsin millions to get rid of it? Seriously?

  9. James permalink
    November 5, 2010 11:45 AM

    Date Sent: 11/5/2010 10:49:32 AM
    Subject: High Speed Rail
    Dear Honorable Governor Doyle,
    I am writing today to inquire as to why you have decided recently to stall progress on the High Speed Rail here in Wisconsin. I have listened to the news reports and tried to gather the information that I need, but none of it makes sense to me.

    It seems that you have decided to take the action because Scott Walker was elected Governor on Nov. 2. It would seem to me that the future Governor Walker will have ample opportunity to put the screws to the state and louse things up on his own. Do we really need to help him out by accomplishing some of his heinous agenda before he even gets to office? If I had wanted a Republican for Governor eight years ago, I would have cast my ballot for one; instead, I put my faith in you for the whole of your two terms, not your two terms minus the last couple of months.

    I ask sincerely then that you reconsider taking action based on the other party’s priorities.

    James

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