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Friday, December 10, 2010

Missed opportunity

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The governor-elect's insistence on killing the Milwaukee-to-Madison rail line seems to have paid off for him. But not for the rest of the state.

And Wisconsin stands still. Thanks to the opposition of Governor-elect Scott Walker and an apparent majority of state residents, federal transportation officials announced Thursday that the state won't get the money needed to build a fast rail link from Milwaukee to Madison. Walker called the decision a victory, and, in one sense, he's right. Those like Walker who thought the rail line was a waste of money won.

But in a larger sense, the state lost. The opposition of Walker and others was shortsighted. The money the Obama administration was willing to invest in Wisconsin would have brought jobs and an improved transportation system. It could have served as an economic development tool and an attraction to new industries.

And it still can if rail advocates continue to fight for creating a modern and balanced transportation system in Wisconsin. Clearly, their work is cut out for them, and, clearly, they failed to make their case to most residents and to Republicans this time around. It's time to start again - because the case still makes sense.

The line would have been part of a network of fast trains connecting major cities in the Midwest, bypassing roads and air travel that are hit harder by weather and, in the case of airlines, by long lines and delays caused by security measures. Roads and cars, meanwhile, will be hit hard by rising gasoline prices and the need to improve a crumbling infrastructure.

A modern rail network offers a sound travel alternative, convenient, comfortable and business-friendly, a fact that other countries and states have long recognized. Furthermore, making Madison one stop on a Midwest network and linking its university, research parks and innovative companies to Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago made all the sense in the world.

This was never about just a Milwaukee-to-Madison link; it was about linking economic centers throughout the Midwest so that they can better compete in a global economy.

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