Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Midwest US high-speed rail: Wisconsin says "no," but Minnesota presses on with public hearings anyway

At the beginning of this year, the Obama administration announced that part of the $8 billion in federal "stimulus" funding for transit was awarded to a Minneapolis/Saint Paul-Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago high-speed rail project.  $823 million in planning money has been on offer from the Federal deficit-spending dope-pusher to (a) establish rail service between Milwaukee and Madison by 2013, and (b) plan for a "vision" so that
Eventually, passengers will be able to travel from Chicago to the Twin Cities at a top speed of 110 mph, saving time and energy compared to driving.
Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker campaigned on opposition to the "controversial train boondoggle," as he described it.  Shortly after his election on November 2, Walker made good on his pledge to reject the Milwaukee-to-Madison project and urged the Federal government to instead spend the money of repairing roads.

However, the bureacrats at the Minnesota DOT are pressing ahead with public hearings anyway, according to the Wisconsin Radio Network:
Minnesota DOT Passenger Rail Director Dan Krom says it’s part of a “federally prescribed” process that examines possible routes in Midwest rail expansion, some of which do not include a route through Madison.
Although Walker has stalled work on high speed rail, Krom says Minnesota’s plans are in such a preliminary stage, Wisconsin’s activity is not a factor here.
In other words, Minnesota rail advocates are patient people and will wait out the new Wisconsin governor if necessary.
By-and-large Minnesota residents are interested in expanding passenger rail. Krom cites input from 15 public hearings on rail, completed last year in which 90-percent of questions and interest was on passenger trains. He says Gopher State is interesting in getting connecting to the Midwest both physically and economically through Chicago.
Of course, only an infinitesimally small number of Minnesotans really care about high-speed rail...and most already know that their state is well "connected to the Midwest."  A commercial flight from MSP to Chicago is less than an hour long.  Driving between the Windy City and the Twin Cities takes less than six hours on the interstates I-90 and I-94.  And for those who really want to travel by rail, there's already Amtrak's "Empire Builder" route via Milwaukee.

This project, fulfilling no aching need and of untold true cost to US and state taxpayers, has never been more than a plaything for politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., Madison, and Saint Paul.

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