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Sunday, April 4, 2010

High-speed rail will boost Wisconsin’s economy

From an entry by Tom Still on Milwaukee Biz Blog:

The Marquette interchange in Milwaukee cost more than $800 million to rebuild between 2004 and 2008, and few people seriously questioned whether that “subsidy” of Wisconsin’s highway transportation system would pay for itself many times over.

Milwaukee’s Zoo interchange, the mix-master for I-94, I-894 and Highway 45, could cost $2.3 billion to rebuild once work begins in 2012. Again, most people familiar with the volume of statewide commerce passing through that intersection can agree reconstruction is a much-needed investment.

But suggest a relatively tiny $7.5 million per year subsidy for a high-speed rail line that could redefine Wisconsin’s connections to Chicago and the Twin Cities, and the same folks who barely blink at billion-dollar concrete projects turn into raging fiscal hawks.

That penny-wise, pound-foolish approach should be questioned. Wisconsin has a chance to build a high-speed rail line, with hard-to-get federal money, that will change the economic destiny of its largest cities and many of its smallest communities. Yet this promising track for economic development is being opposed by those who claim a small state subsidy will somehow break the bank.

Before the political debate gets too overwrought, let’s examine the economic reasons why Wisconsin should embrace building a Milwaukee-to-Madison rail line and improving the existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago connection.

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