Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Doyle's Choo Choo Train Sets

Governor Doyle likes to claim his little choo choo train project is the most "shovel-ready" rail project in the Midwest.

“We’re maybe one of the only states in the country ... if not the only one that’s actually planned for this moment,” Doyle declared July 17 in announcing a new partnership with the Spanish train company, Talgo, to provide sleek new rail cars. “This truly is the most shovel-ready rail project in the Midwest and, I think, the U.S.”

The problem is, that it is far from reality. There has not been sufficient research to support his argument. Before we run off and spend hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars, don't you think we should have the facts?

In a rare example of great investigative reporting Lexie Clinton of the Janesville Gazette helps show why this is far from "the most shovel-ready rail project in the Midwest".

-- Wisconsin officials don’t know how many people currently commute along the route between Milwaukee and Madison. State transportation spokesman Christopher Klein countered that record ridership in Wisconsin on Amtrak, the nation’s passenger rail service, shows the state is ready for more. “Wisconsin doesn’t need to prove we want to ride trains,” Klein said. “We already have.”

-- Officials in four cities where stops are planned—Brookfield, Madison, Oconomowoc and Watertown—are enthusiastic supporters but remain unaware of many of the details. Klein said Wisconsin is ahead of most states in planning but cited a federal report that acknowledged some details aren’t worked out because “states have had little time to prepare for a ... program for intercity passenger rail of this magnitude.”

-- Critics question the viability of the planned stop at the Madison airport, which is nearly 6 miles from the city’s major downtown destinations. Klein said bringing the train downtown would add at least half an hour to the trip, which would be “extremely undesirable” for passengers not stopping in Madison.

-- Other benefits of the project have been thrown into doubt by a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report that concluded rail projects would have “little impact on the congestion, environmental, energy and other issues that face the U.S. transportation system.”

-- The description “high-speed” is a misnomer. State transportation officials say the train likely would average about 70 mph the first few years. The train is expected to travel up to 110 mph by 2015 once the state completes additional safety improvements.

Read the rest of her article.

h/t Free Whitewater .

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