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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024

Doyle leaves rail supporters puzzled

When Gov. Jim Doyle signed an $810 million high-speed rail deal with the federal government the weekend before the midterm elections, it seemed like he wanted to throw one last political punch before becoming a lame duck. In light of this, politicos and average Joes alike were shocked when Doyle put the brakes on the rail project last week.

It's unclear if Doyle's decision is rooted in some type of political ploy or just evidence that he believes governor-elect Scott Walker will inevitably kill the project. However, no matter what his reasoning is, work on the rail should continue.

The plan is projected to create over 5,000 construction jobs and would cost Wisconsin taxpayers only $7.5 million a year in upkeep. Walker has called the project a ""boondoggle"" for taxpayers, but this maintenance cost is a minimal price to pay considering Wisconsin already spends over $3 billion a year on transportation. Additionally, continuing the project would prevent Talgo, a Spanish train company that Milwaukee spent over $3 million recruiting, from leaving the state.

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Ending the project now wouldn't come without extra costs. In addition to the $14 million the state has already spent, Wisconsin taxpayers will still be responsible for paying over $83 million originally covered by federal stimulus funding to renovate the Milwaukee train station and the Hiawatha line. Moreover, Wisconsin and Southern Railroad has said it plans to bill the state for eight months of labor and supply costs whether or not the project continues.

It's both disappointing and confusing that Doyle is halting a project he's worked so hard for. By continuing work on the rail until January he could easily call Walker's bluff and force him to either continue the project or make the politically vulnerable and irresponsible decision of dismantling the rail and repaying potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in funding already spent on the project.

However, the pieces are now falling into place to shift Wisconsin's rail funding to projects in other states. Despite Walker's campaign promise to use the funds for other infrastructure projects such as improving roads or expanding highways, a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and President Obama's veto power would surely block any attempt to redirect the funds. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has already warned Walker about the consequences of canceling the project and other states like New York are lining up to rake in any unclaimed funds.

Because Walker is now in a position to either give up the money or build the rail, he will inevitably be forced to renege on one of his campaign promises. If he actually cares about two of his primary campaign planks, creating jobs and promoting infrastructure, finishing the rail would be a no-brainer. Though Walker was critical of Democratic leaders when Harley-Davidson threatened to leave the state, if he decides to permanently end the rail project, he will be solely responsible for forcing Talgo to eventually pack up shop.

Walker fell into the unfortunate position of regurgitating national GOP talking points during his gubernatorial campaign. Now that he's elected, he has the chance to make the best decision for Wisconsin. We hope he takes up that challenge.

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