Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eau Claire Rail Rally

I did make it to the rail rally at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire on Saturday November 20th organized by Wisconsin Sierra Club, as did almost 100 other people. It was a great turn out for such a bitterly cold day.

Dean Scanlon, from the Laborers' Local No. 268, stressed that what this state really needed was more jobs, and the rail was poised to introduce a multitude of jobs. Not just jobs immediately associated with building and maintaining the rail line, but also serving as a connection between the unemployed and jobs areas. He said that if Scott Walker were really serious about creating more jobs in Wisconsin, he should be supporting the rail.

Eau Claire City Councilwoman Jackie Pavelski talked about the old Twin Cities 400 railway that her parents relied on to get from southeast Wisconsin to northwestern Wisconsin for family get-togethers. She said that it had been an important part of building Wisconsin's economy and connecting people then, and a new rail could be a part of building Wisconsin's economy and connecting people now. She also made the point that although gasoline/oil is no longer $4 a gallon, we don't know how long it will stay that way. The rail is a project for the future as well as the here-and-now.

Some of the speakers were just people who showed up to the rally and had something to say. One person said that the money was going to be spent on rail project one way or another. What governor-elect Walker needs to decide is does he want that money to benefit Wisconsin, or does he want to give it away to another state; and that he would not only be deciding on this money, but all the money that the rail would potentially generate in many years to come.

Another rallier mentioned how the rail would help reduce the congestion on the road. So many road very expensive road projects are needed just to reduce this congestion that it makes sense to put in rail.

Another made the point that they were not hearing the social benefits of rail being mentioned by anyone. He said that people have been getting increasingly isolated in our society and are not connecting with the other members of their society in a meaningful way. He said that public transportation, such as rail, can help people connect within their society. I personally agree with this statement. My family and I traveled the rail and bus system in the UK and Ireland and met so many wonderful people. There was a sense of community on this public transportation that you just really wouldn't find walled off in a private vehicle.

Eau Claire is going to be holding a city council meeting November 22 and possibly voting on being part of the extension of the rail from Madison. Other cities are also planning to have this topic on their agenda in the near future. Although the results would be meaningless without the Milwaukee to Madison rail project staying alive, it could be a huge message to the governor from the people in this state --


If you would like more information on Eau Claire and Western Wisconsin's interest in the rail project, visit the Western Wisconsin Rail Coalition website.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why It Just Doesn't Make Sense to Scrap the Rail Project

This article by Jesse Russell at I think is one of the best break-downs of the different cost scenarios of the rail project would be:

What happens if the rail extension is now cancelled? U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has made it clear that Wisconsin will be slapped with a $100 million bill for federal money already used on the project under Doyle's Administration. This isn't a bluff. After New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cancelled a more than decade old tunnel plan that would have connected New Jersey to Manhattan the U.S. Department of Transportation slapped the state with a $271 million bill due immediately. That's only the initial estimate from the US DOT who are calculating additional costs which could put the final bill over $350 million.

No matter what the actual number is, Wisconsin will lose. Not only is Governor-elect Scott Walker costing the state an estimated 9000 future jobs, but he is now throwing away $100 million in infrastructure. If the opponents numbers are to be believed, more than 13 years in operating costs. If the proponents are to be believed that's more than a century's worth of operating costs. I don't know if the opponents or the proponents are right about the math. I think it'll actually end up being somewhere in the middle and in that case, Wisconsin still loses.
You tell them Jesse! If this new governor is really serious about creating jobs, he should support the rail. If he wants to make sure that people can actually get to their jobs, he should support the rail. If he doesn't want to waste taxpayer's money, he should support the rail. So why doesn't he support the rail?

Rally for Rail

I found this over at Western Wisconsin Renewable Resources blog:

Rally for Trains, Saturday, Nov. 20, Eau Claire

Join us as we tell Scott Walker that Wisconsin can't afford to say NO over $800 million dollars in federal grant funds for this project, 9,570 permanent jobs, and increased property values.

WHEN: Saturday, November 20, NOON

WHERE: Phoenix Park, Riverfront Terrace & S. Barstow St, Eau Claire, WI

Speakers include Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (invited); Jeremy Gragert (UW Eau Claire graduate); Representative, West Central Rail Coalition (invited). More details.

If we want to save this train, we need to speak up now! Join us as we tell Scott Walker that Wisconsin can't afford to say NO over $800 million dollars in federal grant funds for this project, 9,570 permanent jobs, and increased property values. Let's extend the popular Hiawatha service connecting Chicago and Milwaukee. Let's create a safe, convenient efficient way to travel throughout the Midwest. We can make a difference, IF we stand together. Please attend and bring a friend!
I am going! I think Walker is out of his mind to scrap this project. He says that it is because of the additional costs to taxpayers and wants to spend the money on building roads and such -- but I hate to break this too you Walker, those have additional costs too.

This is a chance to get a message to our incoming governor that he actually has people to answer to. Go and speak loudly to Scott Walker that we need to move FORWARD!