Milwaukee Mayor Barrett Pleased With Gov. Walker Application For Rail Funds
WISCONSINREPORT.COM (03/29/2011) - Wisconsin is applying for 150 million dollars in high speed rail funds from the federal government. The money will provide upgrades to the Hiawatha line, which provided service between Milwaukee and Chicago to more than 800,000 passengers last year. Walker's former opponent in the race for the Governor's office, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is all for the project.
Governor Scott Walker announced today that Wisconsin would submit a High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant application to the federal government for at least $150 million in upgrades to the Hiawatha line.
"Upgrading the Hiawatha line will save the state money and improve rail service for Wisconsin customers," said Governor Scott Walker.
"The state will save money immediately on capital costs and in the long-term with lower operating costs. Service improvements will also enable the state to recover more from ticket sales," Governor Walker said.
The Hiawatha line is a popular existing passenger rail line that provides daily service between Milwaukee and Chicago. The line had record ridership last year carrying nearly 800,000 passengers. Ridership is continuing to grow in 2011.
Wisconsin will join Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Amtrak to submit a joint application which will allow Wisconsin to purchase two additional train sets and eight locomotives. The application will also include funding to construct a maintenance facility in Milwaukee.
The state’s application would allow it to accommodate ridership growth, provide a more reliable service, and recover a greater percentage of costs from its passengers. The federal funds will also allow for lower state operating costs and increase the amount of user fees recovered through fare box revenue.
The Doyle Administration had previously agreed to a $30 million maintenance project paid for exclusively with state money. The new project would provide for a larger train shed and be paid for primarily with federal dollars, reducing the state cost to $10 million. Governor Walker says this will save the state $20 million in capital costs and lower the state’s long-term operating costs.
Republican Governor Scott Walker's Democratic opponent in the November 2010 election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, beleives the application for transportation funding makes sense, and he says he supports it.
"This is an important step forward toward improving the rail connection between Milwaukee and Chicago. The Hiawatha is a popular route with a growing number of riders, and it provides a valuable economic link between Illinois and Wisconsin," Mayor Barrett said.
"Milwaukee will also benefit from the location of the maintenance facility at Century City. Milwaukee residents will be employed at the maintenance facility, and the work will continue there for decades," Barrett added.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says he will be in contact with the U.S. Department of Transportation to endorse the application and to encourage the Federal government to fund the improvements.
Meanwhile, 14 Legislators have sent a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, requesting him to apply for 2.4 billion dollars to restore train service to the State Capital and Wisconsin.
The letter suggests that the federal money would save Wisconsin state taxpayers from having to upgrade freight lines and stretch the $60 million for rail upgrades in the capital budget. The lawmakers also stated that the measure would help create at least 5,500 jobs as well as save the jobs at the Talgo Train Assembly Plant in Milwaukee.
The 14 legislators that sent the March 29, 2011 letter to the Governor Walker are Wisconsin Assembly Representatives Brett Hulsey, Amy Sue Vruwink, Kelda Roys, Chris Sinicki, Jon Richards, Fred Kessler, Terese Berceau, Sandy Pasch, Mark Pocan, JoCasta Zamarripa, and Fred Clark, as well as State Senators Mark Miller, Chris Larson, and Dave Hansen.
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