Train debate heads west

High-speed rail between Milwaukee and Madison is not happening, but the debate on whether or not that’s a good may continue for years to come. For Governor-elect Scott Walker, the decision to kill the train must have been no brainer. If high-speed rail eventually proves to be a success in other states, it’s not likely to happen in a time frame that could damage Walker politically. If high-speed rail eventually proves to be a boondoggle in other states, that will afford Walker the opportunity for an “I told you so.” Meanwhile out in California, where some the money Walker diverted from Wisconsin may end up getting spent, there’s lot of debate on a proposed “bullet train” between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Remarkably, the governors of Wisconsin and Ohio seem to have taken us up on an offer so disadvantageous that the most shameless infomercial producer would hesitate to promote it,” says the Los Angeles Times. “Scott Walker, Republican governor-elect of Wisconsin, fretted that his state’s train would cost $7.5 million a year to operate. This is sort of like turning down a free car because you don’t want to have to pay for gasoline and insurance.”

But the Wall Street Journal defends Walker. “High-speed rail systems almost always run over budget and end up heavily subsidized. Only two segments of two such railways in the world, in France and Japan, have broken even, and they are in high-density areas-not running across sprawling California.” The Journal cites a recent study which took a close look at financial projections for California’s Los Angeles to San Francisco service (which carries a $40 billion price tag) and concluded that unless the federal government provides $19 billion in seed money, the railroad will never achieve a positive cash flow. State taxpayers will end up subsidizing a fantastic boondoggle, even though the authorizing legislation prohibits subsidies.”

The latest controversy surrounding the Golden State’s bullet train has to do with the decision on where to construct the first leg. I gather the 65 mile, $4.5 billion track between Borden and Corcoran is akin to announcing that Wisconsin would be starting a Madison to Twin Cities route by linking Lyndon Station with Hixton.

And back here in Wisconsin, the state’s Democratic Party on Monday unveiled a billboard near Milwaukee’s Marquette Interchange claiming that Scott Walker is “Wanted For Killing 13,000 Wisconsin Jobs.”

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