Posts Tagged ‘high speed rail’

Mayor Dave plays hardball with Scott Walker

February 17, 2010

As has been widely reported, Scott Walker has publicly opposed the JFC’s acceptance of more than $800 million (not $8 million Herald) in federal stimulus money to be invested in high-speed rails between Madison and Milwaukee, and Milwaukee and Chicago. And Mayor Dave is pissed about it.

Although Cieslewicz praised Doyle’s support on securing the funding, he criticized Milwaukee County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker’s disapproval of the project.

“If you’re a friend of labor or anyone who wants to work in the economy, you’ll understand Scott Walker just doesn’t get it,” Cieslewicz said.

If it is the case that the only stop in Madison ends up being at the airport, I’m not sure approving the funding is as obvious as the Democrats want to make it seem. Without a stop in downtown Madison, a high-speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee could end up actually being a “rail to nowhere,” becoming more of a burden than a benefit to the state in the long run.

Why Eagon supports Yahara Station

February 16, 2010

Ald. Bryon Eagon, who has not made good on his New Year’s resolution to blog more, nevertheless provides a comprehensive statement of support for a downtown(ish) station for the proposed high-speed rail line coming to Madison.

Economic Development. The hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money is meant not only to spur investments in transportation infrastructure, but also aims at spurring economic growth.

Smart Transit. This site currently hosts something like 14 bus connections.

Location. Location. Location. This about this: You’re coming to Madison from Milwaukee or Chicago. Where is your destination? Probably not the Dane County Regional Airport.

The post is much longer and his explanations much more thorough, but I’ll let you read them chez Eagon so you can give him a kick in the ass and get him to post more.

Here’s another question I will be looking into in the coming weeks: who in Madison opposes a downtown station, whether Yahara or a similar location. Will there be some contrarian alder who thinks the airport would be more practical, or that funds used for a downtown station would be better used elsewhere?

Spotted at the Union: High speed rail politics

February 5, 2010

Valued Sconz commenter Paul Axel is eating a ranch-chicken wrap, drinking a diet raspberry snapple and telling Ald. Bryon Eagon why Madison needs a high speed rail station downtown. It appears he’s preaching to the choir, but he’s introduced some interesting points on how to frame the argument in favor of a downtown stop instead of one at the airport.

Eagon: “When you think about people coming from out of town, Chicago, Milwaukee –– the last place you want to go is Dane County Airport.”

Now the two candidates for a downtown station are Yahara Station, at First and East Washington, and Union Corners, which is also on East Washington.

The mayor supports both an airport stop and a downtown stop. However, Kathleen Falk favors the airport. According to Eagon, at first Mayor Dave was reluctant to support the downtown option for fear of starting a city-county squabble that would scare off the feds in control of the stimulus money. However, now that the contract is official the debate can begin.

Axel is very eager to get as much community collaboration on this project as possible. He wants to talk to Analiese Eicher, WISPIRG, even the College Republicans! Axel believes Republicans can be brought on board if supporters of the plan frame the rhetoric in terms of benefits to small towns and small businesses.

How much did Chicago’s loss hurt Wisconsin?

October 4, 2009

Here’s one slant I haven’t heard on the Olympics story: Would Chicago’s bid have had a better chance if the U.S. had sent a Sconnie instead of a FIB  to Copenhagen? Seriously, I think it deserves attention, because the way it sounds, the Sconnies are just as mad about the loss as our neighbors to the South.

In an article for Biztimes titled “Chicago’s loss is America’s loss,” Steve Jagler argues the president should never have wagered his reputation on the Olympic bid.

Nevertheless, unlike other critics of the president’s decision, Jagler argues that the bid was actually worth his time, but that because he acted, the loss was that much more painful. He emphasizes the importance by listing a number of community leaders in Milwaukee who voiced enthusiasm for the economic opportunities the games could have brought the surrounding area, including major infrastructure improvements, such as high-speed rail. Scott Walker was especially pumped because the head of the Chicago Olympic effort was a native of Wauwatosa.

Yes, it hurts. What’s especially distressing is how big a role the games could have played in pushing the anti-mass transit curmudgeons to accept a nominal tax increase (if that) for an extremely worthwhile investment in the future. It’s likely that the feds will approve money for high-speed rail, but the Olympic games would have abruptly replaced confidence in an eventual project with certainty in a regional and even national priority.

However, Jagler, like many others who are pushing this meme, doesn’t explain why Obama’s trip to Europe hurt America. Sure the talk radio hosts loved the story, and plenty of partisans will find eagerly jump on the story as a reason to criticize the president, but I’m relatively confident the vast majority of Americans saw what I saw: we tried, but Brazil is sexier than Chicago.

The decision wasn’t a stinging rebuke to Chicago – it was just as likely a ringing endorsement of Rio. Would you have voted for Chi-town if you were a delegate from Finland? There are plenty of practical considerations that go into planning the Olympics – but all the nominees satisfied basic concerns about space, infrastructure etc. Once that’s determined, it comes down to a vote of a bunch of old guys, voting with their gut.

Doyle-style irony

October 2, 2009

As I noted this morning, a top official in the Department of Transportation has declared that the state will go through a competitive bidding process the next time it buys trains. This promise, of course, is in contrast to the recent way of doing train business by the Doyle administration and Assembly Democrats.

What’s most amusing about this new pledge is that it is not really a pledge, it is simply a necessary adherence to the law. The next two trains the state procures will not be paid for by state money, but by federal transportation funds. Hence, the process will have to comply with federal competitive bidding regulations, and the state will not be able to exploit the loophole Gov. Tommy Thompson created back in the 80’s which exempted railroad companies from normal competitive bidding requirements.

Allow me to translate this into a Republican talking point: If only Jim Doyle were as prudent with Wisconsin dollars as he is with Washington ones!

Brunch Links

August 12, 2009

Good morning Sconz nation! I’m a little today and the next few days with moving. I’ll try to keep you updated though. It’s another beautiful day in the 80’s.

Uh oh, six businesses accused of violating Madison’s lobbying disclosure law. Hammes Co, which is developing the Edgewater, is one of them. They say it was an honest mistake.

People keep talking about Doyle’s legal adviser, who didn’t pass the state bar exam (she was from California). Why does this matter?

Where should the high-speed train from Milwaukee to Madison stop?

Paul Soglin: Paul Ryan is a goofball.

Pocan disses Doyle, but approves trains

August 4, 2009

“The most telling aspect of the story is the Democrats’ refusal to comment. Especially when we’re talking about Madison-area Democrats, many of whom pride themselves on pushing for higher ethics standards and open, accessible government. You know Mark Pocan doesn’t like defending a governor who’s inviting comparisons to George W.”

That’s what I wrote earlier today, before this came out:

Rep. Mark Pocan scolded the DOT and Doyle administration from not informing the JFC about the agreement to purchase trains from Spanish company Talgo until a month before the panel had to act on the purchase.

Pocan pointedly asked DOT general counsel Bob Jambois when the agreement was signed by Secretary Frank Busalacchi. Jambois said a letter of intent was signed on May 11.

Pocan said the JFC members didn’t hear about the deal until July 17, the day Gov. Doyle held a press conference to tout the purchase from Talgo.

“As a co-equal branch of government we should have been informed earlier than just a little over two weeks ago about this,” Pocan said.

We’re still far enough away from the election for Democrats to criticize their commander without supplying the opposition with too much ammunition, however, it’s still a gutsy move by Pocan. Just look at the comments Republicans made. Robin Vos, who despite being insane, apparently represents a constituency, called Doyle’s deal “a sham,” saying Doyle only bought the Spanish trains because the Spanish government had paid for his trip to Spain.

Nevertheless, the trains were approved by the Joint Finance Committee on a party-line vote. The committee did withhold $500,000 from the $48 million – perhaps a symbolic protest?

Maybe corruption buys good trains

August 4, 2009

Doyle wants a fast train. I can sympathize. I dream of a world where rappers boast about their city’s mass transit, emphasizing the speed, the efficiency, and of course, the chrome plates on the tracks.

But in his zeal to develop hip-hop worthy trains, Doyle may have jumped the gun. Critics are pointing to the Spanish company which the state is scheduled to pay $47 million to make the train cars. It appears Jimmy awarded them a rare no-bid contract, despite a pledge from his office in February to choose the contractor through a bidding process.

Committee member Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said she would oppose the purchase in part because of the lack of a competitive bid that might have lowered the cost of a deal.

“The Doyle administration is like a runaway train,” Sen. Darling said. “It’s very upsetting as a policy maker to see the governor acting so cavalierly about hard-earned tax dollars.”

The most telling aspect of the story is the Democrats’ refusal to comment. Especially when we’re talking about Madison-area Democrats, many of whom pride themselves on pushing for higher ethics standards and open, accessible government. You know Mark Pocan doesn’t like defending a governor who’s inviting comparisons to George W.

Budget committee co-chairman Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, is still reviewing the proposed train purchase and hasn’t taken a position on it, spokesman John Anderson said. The other co-chairman, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, could not be reached for comment.

What no Republican is mentioning, however, is that Doyle’s no-bid contract was perfectly legal. Why? Because their own railroad man, Tommy Thompson, wrote an exemption for railroad companies that allowed the state to forgo the normal bidding process when negotiating rail contracts. Incredibly, the State Journal article on the matter does not even  reference the role the former governor played in this outcome. C’mon guys. If you’re going to cut something out of an article for the love of God, don’t cut out political hypocrisy. That’s the best part.

If we take the governor at his word, although there was not officially a bidding process, there was competition. Seven train makers were contacted and apparently only one company gave a comprehensive response. However, one must question how much Doyle was influenced during his trip to Spain, when he rode trains made by the company and talked to its executives. He obviously did not receive that kind of treatment from competing firms.

A somewhat rational point put forward by Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican leader in the Senate, is that taxpayers should be wary of a deal that only one of seven companies seemed interested in. Why were the three other European and Asian train-makers seemingly disinterested? But perhaps they are different types of companies – perhaps they operate at higher profit margins, or the project was not big enough for them. Remember, $47 million is not that much in the grand scheme of public transportation world wide.

I just hope this goddamn thing goes fast.

Brunch Links

August 3, 2009

So far so good in Madison today, however, we’re expected to get rain later on. High of 85 and a low of 58. The brunch today looks repulsive. You win some lose some.

The new domestic partner registry is now open! A good, comprehensive piece on the issue at the Cap Times. Can’t wait for the lawsuit from Wisconsin Family Council, or whatever they call themselves.

Doyle awarded the train contract to a Spanish company despite bids from three other companies.

Mayor Dave’s office: “Still, hiring more police is exponentially more expensive than other remedies that may be more effective.

Three Wisconsin women tied a man up and covered him with Krazy glue after finding out that he’d been having affairs with all of them.

The Political Environment: Build the trains in Milwaukee, not Janesville.

State Journal ed board lauds Wisconsin for actually spending stimulus money on bridges that need repairs.

Journal Sentinel argues in favor of taxing the most generous health care benefits.

Doyle tips hat to New York Times

August 1, 2009

Well he could for part of this editorial. The Times ed board writes that “high speed rail is not some pie-in-the-sky idea.”

Japan, Spain, China and Germany are among those with superspeedy trains that rival air travel and easily eclipse the irritations of a car trip. Yet America has only one high-speed corridor, from Boston to Washington, where the Acela Express is often forced by conditions to slow down to average speeds of around 70 miles per hour.

That part works for Doyle, who’s been mighty proud of a proposed high speed rail system that would extend a direct line from Milwaukee to Madison. The Times affirms the possibility of a line in the Midwest:

It’s not as if high-speed rail is a dream only for the East and West Coasts. When the Department of Transportation asked for proposals for using the president’s stimulus money, an astonishing 278 plans arrived from 40 states and the District of Columbia.

That unfortunately makes Doyle’s statement that Wisconsin is “taking a step that nobody else in the United States is taking right now” sound a little disingenuous.