A stronger Midwest helps build a stronger Minnesota. That’s why we’re closely watching a proposed rail line in our neighboring state. The fast-speed line (up to 110mph) from Milwaukee to Madison could eventually reach the Twin Cities, connecting us to Chicago with stops in Wisconsin’s capital and Milwaukee. However, it’s recently garnered some controversy.
Both Republican candidates (their primary is this week) for Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race oppose the line, promising to derail the plan. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker opposes the rail line because he believes the federal funds should go to repairing roads and bridges in Wisconsin. If he cannot use the funds for this, he will reject them. Former U.S. Representative Mark Neumann has stated he will use the funds for tax cuts. Unfortunately for Walker and Neumann, neither of these desires can be fulfilled, because federally designated fast-speed rail money cannot go to any other project. Furthermore, if the funds are rejected by the future governor, they will simply go to another state with another fast-speed rail plan.
There has been support for the rail line as well, from current WI Governor Jim Doyle (D) to the democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett (the current Milwaukee mayor) to a number of former Republican politicians. Furthermore, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has stated, “High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin. There’s no stopping it.” With $810 million designated to the project, and $46.7 million of that already approved for release by Governor Jim Doyle, it seems a strange move to make broad claims about derailing the system. Former WI Governor Tommy Thompson (R) has spoken out in favor of rail in the past, and has now said that while it is understandable for Republicans to focus on road repair, they should accept the funds anyway since they are being offered.
From a Minnesotan perspective, the proposed fast-speed line is a smart one, primarily for economic reasons. Connecting the major metropolitan areas of the Midwest by fast-speed rail will increase the region’s economic productivity, making it more appealing and accessible for employers and employees alike.