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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wisconsin, feds sign high-speed rail deal

From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Transportation officials have confirmed that Wisconsin and federal administrators have signed a deal to commit the state to spending all $810 million of its federal stimulus cash on a proposed Milwaukee-to-Madison high-speed rail line.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on its website Monday night the agreement was reached just days before today's election.

The deal is significant because it could make it harder for opponents to stop the controversial project, which officials originally hoped would one day connect the Midwest, from Chicago to Minneapolis.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, the Republican nominee and gubernatorial frontrunner, has said repeatedly that he wanted to stop the rail project, even if it meant repaying hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal government. On Monday, he called the deal "raw political power at its worst."

But Cari Anne Renlund, executive assistant to state Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi, said Gov. Jim Doyle's administration was only following its original plan for the project to create construction jobs as soon as possible.

"Essentially what this means is that we've satisfied the federal government that we are ready to start the construction phase," Renlund, the No. 3 official at the state Department of Transportation, told the State Journal. "We can put people on the job and pay them."

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