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.

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