Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Journal Sentinel Breaks down Walker's High Speed Rail Boondoggle that could Cost Wisconsin Taxpayers nearly $100 million!!!

Larry Sandler and Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel finally did what I did months ago when I broke down the costs of maintaining high speed rail in the state, adding to those numbers with even more of Walker’s plans to waste taxpayer money. Again, this is only the beginning:

Wisconsin taxpayers could wind up paying more to keep existing passenger train service from Milwaukee to Chicago than they would have paid to run new high-speed rail service from Milwaukee to Madison, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis of state figures.

The Legislature (will) spend $31.6 million in mostly borrowed state money on Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line, costs that could have been paid largely by an $810 million federal grant that would have extended the Hiawatha to Madison … doesn't cover all the spending that will be needed to keep running the Hiawatha, a growing service that carried nearly 800,000 passengers last year … officials have estimated they would need millions more for locomotives, signals and a new maintenance base, even without expanding service beyond the current seven daily round trips.
And, like the spending approved Tuesday, all or most of those new costs would have been covered by the federal grant spurned by Gov. Scott Walker last year.

Taken together, state taxpayers' share of the Hiawatha capital costs that would have been covered by the federal grant could total as much as $99 million, significantly more than the $30 million they would have paid for 20 years of operating costs on the Milwaukee-to-Madison segment, as estimated by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's administration. Walker had cited those operating costs as his main reason for opposing the 110-mph extension … And that doesn't count the other potential benefits that high-speed rail supporters have cited from the Milwaukee-to-Madison line, such as jobs, economic development, expanded tax base and improved freight rail tracks.
Thank god the Republicans protected us from all those possible cost overruns lurking in the shadows, causing many Wisconsinites to worry themselves into an anti-high-speed rail frenzy.  
"We'll never know, thank goodness," said Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), committee co-chairman. "The taxpayers don't have to worry."
True. We'll never have to worry about what we'll never know. Brilliant. Oh, and it’s all Gov. Jim Doyle’s fault:

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie characterized Tuesday's vote as "action to pay another one of Governor Doyle's bills." He said … the Milwaukee-to-Madison segment would have been a bigger burden on state taxpayers than paying some Hiawatha costs up front.

Yet the state's own numbers call that contention into question … it appears the state eventually could spend $11.7 million on a temporary maintenance base, up to $60.1 million on a permanent maintenance base, up to $10.2 million on train shed upgrades at the downtown Amtrak-Greyhound station, $6.6 million on signal upgrades at the station and at least $10.4 million on new locomotives - all costs the federal government would have paid. Even if state transportation officials could cut the cost of the maintenance base in half, the state's share of Milwaukee-to-Chicago capital costs that would have been covered by federal aid still would be more than 20 years of Milwaukee-to-Madison operating costs.
Here's Ed Schultz telling the rest of the country:

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