Kohl pushes feds to speed up rail funding timetable

    Wisconsin’s Democratic leaders want the high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison to be well on its way to completion by the time the state’s next governor takes office in January 2011.
    Republican gubernatorial contenders Scott Walker and Mark Neumann both say they oppose the $810 million project if it not self-sustaining from a revenue standpoint. Of course, no public transportation infrastructure is self-sustaining. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation estimates that the state’s annual subsidy that will be needed for high-speed rail will be $15.6 million.
    If that’s the case, Walker and Neumann both have said they would try to stop the project.
    Thus, Wisconsin’s slice of the Obama administration’s high-speed rail initiative may be on the clock.
    During today’s Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) pressed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the timeline for getting federal high-speed rail funding to Wisconsin. LaHood testified before the subcommittee on which Kohl serves.
    Kohl raised questions whether the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will be able to get funds to Wisconsin in time for the fall construction season. Stressing both the long-term and immediate benefits of high-speed rail, Kohl sought assurances that the process will move forward quickly and smoothly.
    “In the short-term, the projects will create thousands of jobs and Wisconsin is anxious to get started,” Kohl said. “If our goal is quickly creating jobs, getting this money out the door seems to be the most important thing we can do.”
    LaHood indicated that the Department of Transportation would be ready to sign an agreement as quickly as possible, as soon as the states are ready to go. He suggested the process could begin as early as 10 to14 days from now.
    “Connecting Wisconsin’s major metropolitan areas via high-speed rail will yield both immediate and long-term benefits,” Kohl said. “Ultimately, this link will help develop Madison and Milwaukee’s economies, creating long-term growth for each city.” 
    – BizTimes Milwaukee

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