Efforts to build a high speed rail line connecting Madison and Milwaukee suffered a major blow Thursday, after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it is withdrawing the $810 million awarded to Wisconsin and sending it to other states. The DOT also took about $400 million in federal funding for rail away from Ohio.
Governor Jim Doyle says the decision is a “tragic moment for the State of Wisconsin.” In a statement, Doyle blamed the decision on Governor-elect Scott Walker’s adamant opposition to the rail project.
Walker campaigned on his plans to stop the train and has stood by his opposition to the project since winning the election in November.
Doyle says the state has now lost millions of dollars that would have gone to create thousands of jobs in Wisconsin. Instead, he says that money will create jobs in other states, as Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota move forward with plans for a Midwest Regional Rail Initiative.
The announcement has sparked criticism from many supporters of high speed rail. Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) blasted Walker for denying the state thousands of jobs, a month before he’s even been sworn into the office of Governor.
State Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison), the outgoing co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, says it’s unfortunate that Walker and Republicans “found it more important to score political points than to create 5,000 jobs and to invest in Wisconsin’s future transit infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) says the decision is to the benefit of Wisconsin taxpayers, because they’ll no longer be required to pick-up the additional tab for operating a high speed rail line.
However, Sensenbrenner expressed disappointment that the money is just being moved on to other states, instead of being returned to the U.S. Treasury Department to help pay down the federal deficit. Sensenbrenner has co-authored legislation that includes that requirement.