Walker & Passenger Rail Advocates Not On Same Track
By Chuck Quirmbach
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 2:01pm
Governor Walker's budget proposal for railroads is sparking more disagreements with passenger rail advocates.
The governor says he wants to dedicate $60 million for the state's freight railroad preservation program. Walker says freight rail is hauling more frac sand from Wisconsin to controversial hydrofracking oil and gas drilling projects elsewhere.
"It allows them to take the frac sand from mines on the roads to the spur and then get it off to wherever they need it, whether that's in the Dakotas, Texas, or eventually hopefully places like Pennsylvania and Ohio, where they have shale deposits as well."
Walker says he's not changing state funding for passenger rail, including Wisconsin's share of the Amtrak Hiawatha Line between Milwaukee and Chicago. The Hiawatha line had record ridership last year of more than 830,000. Walker says Wisconsin is still trying to join with other states to improve Hiawatha. But the lack of new Wisconsin money for passenger rail disappoints Ron Wolfe of the Madison group Pro-Rail. Wolf says, look at the rising price of gasoline:
"So it gets more and more expensive for people to travel by car, and we'd like to see the option of rail."
Wolfe says the state ought to help Amtrak with another empire builder run between Milwaukee and La Crosse, settle a lawsuit and get the Talgo-built train cars onto the Hiawatha line, and even reconsider the Mdison-Milwaukee high speed-rail project axed by Walker.