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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rep. Shilling: High-speed rail project would have benefited our region, too

From a guest column by State Representative Jennider Shilling in the La Crosse Tribune:

I read Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s column (Monday’s Tribune) and continue to be amazed at his insistence that killing the high-speed rail project and shipping thousands of jobs to California, Florida and Illinois is a victory.

He has said that turning away $810 million in funding and the thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs will somehow save taxpayers money. But what Walker fails to mention is that Wisconsin taxpayers will now be on the hook for up to $61.3 million in freight and passenger rail upgrades that need to be made and would have been paid for by the federal grants. Because he turned away that money, 100 percent of these costs will now fall on Wisconsin taxpayers.

Because his numbers don’t add up, Walker also tried to paint this project as a high-speed rail line to nowhere. In reality, the Chicago-Milwaukee upgrade and Milwaukee-Madison line would have been the first leg of a major project between Chicago and the Twin Cities. I’ve always said that this infrastructure investment would be like our investment in the interstate projects of the 1950s, and it’s hard to imagine what our state would look like today if we had turned down federal money to construct these highway projects.

While I could argue the merits of this project at length, the most unbelievable statement of his was that he couldn’t imagine people in western Wisconsin supporting the high-speed rail project. Had he been listening to the residents in La Crosse and throughout our region, I am sure he would have reached a very different conclusion.

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