Scott Walker’s Refusal of Federal Rail Dollars Leaves Wisconsin on the Hook for More Than $200 Million to Upgrade Existing Hiawatha Rail Line
After Scott Walker’s request for federal rail dollars to upgrade the existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha rail line was denied, the state is looking for a way to pay for the millions of dollars of necessary work.
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The state is now facing at least $209.1 million in costs, which include at least two new locomotives and a maintenance base already contracted to rail manufacturer Talgo, track upgrades, a train shed and related engineering and design costs, all of which would have been covered by Wisconsin’s original high-speed rail allocation that Walker famously rejected.
In rejecting the federal funds, Walker cited the state’s burden of annual operating costs, originally estimated to be approximately $7.5 million. Revised estimates, coupled with the news that federal aid could cover up to 90% of the state’s costs, reduced the state’s annual costs to as low as $750,000. Using this metric, the state could have paid for up to 278 years of maintenance with the original federal rail allocation for less than what it will have to pay to upgrade the Hiawatha line.
“We knew all along that Scott Walker’s refusal of federal high-speed rail dollars would cost Wisconsin thousands of family-supporting jobs, as well as the opportunity to lead the nation as an innovator in the field of green technology,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Tuesday. “Now that Wisconsin has missed out on this second round of high-speed rail dollars, Walker’s short-sighted rejection is actually going to cost the taxpayers millions of dollars too.”