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Monday, June 27, 2022

High-speed railroad construction halted in wake of election

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation told businesses to temporarily halt work on the high-speed rail network between Madison and Milwaukee.

Gov. Jim Doyle asked the DOT to stop work on the federally funded project, according to a DOT statement issued Thursday. The federal government and state transportation officials signed an agreement to allocate $810 million in transportation funds for high-speed rail last week.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Contractor Edward Kraemer & Sons was told Wednesday in an e-mail from the DOT to begin building a five-mile stretch of track in Jefferson County. Three hours later, another e-mail told them to stop.

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DAAR Engineering, who holds a $2.8 million high-speed rail contract, also said they received an e-mail Wednesday from the DOT telling them to put the project on hold, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

""In light of the election results, our agency will be taking a few days to assess the real world consequences, including the immediate impacts to people and their livelihoods, if this project were to be stopped,"" the DOT said in the statement.

Governor-elect Scott Walker has been critical of high-speed rail and said Thursday he has been ""exploring all legal options to stop the train from moving forward.""

Walker said he wants to appeal to members of Congress to put the federal funds toward ""fixing our crumbling roads and bridges.""

However the federal funds are specifically allocated for high-speed rail, and as such, cannot be used for other transportation projects.

Wisconsin would have to pay the federal government for funds already spent if the project was canceled.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said he will work to convince Walker high-speed rail would create jobs and improve Wisconsin's economy. Cieslewicz said high-speed rail would be ""heavily used"" and worth the investment.

""In Madison alone, DOT projects over a half million riders in its first year of operation,"" Cieslewicz said in a statement.

The rail plan would connect the Madison-Milwaukee line to Chicago and a further plan would connect Madison and the Twin Cities.

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