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Rep. Brett Davis: Stopping the train boondoggle
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Imagine being able to travel from Madison to Milwaukee, or vice versa, in only a few minutes, get to where you want to go easily, and do it all for a very reasonable price. Sound like a pipedream? Well, it is, but Gov. Jim Doyle and a handful of state legislators would like you to think it is reality.

As you may know, Doyle has fast-tracked approval of an expensive "high-speed" train that would run from Madison to Milwaukee. Planned to start operating at around 79 mph, with multiple stops, the train will be anything but high-speed. But that is just one minor point in a laundry list of reasons not to allow this train project from moving forward.

To put it bluntly, the taxpayers can't afford the millions it will take out of their pockets to subsidize the train, and there is a clear lack of demand for it in the first place. Therefore, I have authored and introduced legislation that would block any federal, state, or local government spending on any aspect of this project. In order to move forward with building the train in the future, the full State Assembly and Senate would have to approve the project. If my bill passes, it will simply treat this major passenger rail project like any other major highway project, which requires full legislative approval.

The evidence against moving forward with this boondoggle is staggering. Perhaps most importantly, the taxpayers of Wisconsin cannot afford the train's price tag. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has estimated it will cost at least $817 million in construction costs. Then, state taxpayers will have to subsidize operating costs to the tune of at least $7 to 10 million per year. Clearly, the people of the state can't afford this project.

However the train's supporters, Doyle, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and certain Democratic state legislators, feel it would be foolish to turn away "free stimulus money." Well, I have news for them. No money is free - it's the taxpayers money anyway you look at it and this project will cost Wisconsinites millions of dollars in the long-run. Basically, Doyle is acting like he has free monopoly money and is buying a railroad on the board game.

Additionally, the train is not needed. At $30 each way, ridership is expected to be low. That's right; a round-trip ticket will cost $60. I know of no one that is willing to pay that high of a price. If the price is lowered, the yearly $10 million subsidy paid by you, the taxpayer, will only increase exponentially.

Finally, our state's transportation fund will not be able to handle this expensive rail project. Already facing a $30 million deficit, the transportation fund is stretched to the limit. If this train project is allowed to move forward, it will only suck money away from our local roads and regional highway systems.

- Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, serves the 80th Assembly District, which includes all of Green County and parts of Lafayette, Rock and Dane counties.