Citizens’ Guide to High Speed Rail Construction Debate

Part 1:  Questions You Can Ask

Currently, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is working on convincing local governments in Southeast Wisconsin to invest local property tax dollars for the construction and maintenance of train stations along the proposed Milwaukee to Madison high speed rail line.

The DOT is promising some funds toward construction of the stations, however the Department has repeatedly avoided answering simple questions regarding the project in general, and the station construction, specifically.

The MacIver Institute has compiled a short list of simple, straightforward questions that citizens can ask their local officials as they deliberate spending scarce public resources on this project.


If you ask your local officials these questions, we’d appreciate you emailing any responses you receive to: so that we can publish a comprehensive list of answers.


General Questions

  • What is the ridership projection for this line?
  • How much will the fares be?
  • Have different ridership projections been calculated based on different fares or does the state DOT believe ridership would be constant regardless of direct passenger costs?
  • How much will the state have to pay to operate the line in each of the first 10 years?
  • Who is responsible for cost overruns for the construction of the entire line?
  • Does the DOT foresee a time when passenger fares will pay the full cost of operating the line?


Train Station-Related Questions

  • How much would the construction of a station in this city cost?
  • How much of that construction cost would be borne by local taxpayers?
  • What impact would this have on the average property tax bill?
  • Who would sign the contract to build the station?
  • What impact would this project have on other capital projects planned by this city?
  • What impact would this project have on our city’s bond rating?
  • Has an environmental impact study been conducted similar to what any private construction project would be subject to?
  • Would the station construction project go through an open-bidding process wherein our local officials could choose the lowest bidder?
  • Are there any union vendor or living wage requirements associated with this project?
  • Who would be responsible for cost overruns for station construction?
  • What are the projected annual maintenance costs this local municipality would have to bear?
  • Would there be a need for increased police protection as the result of the estimated number of passengers getting on and off the train each year?
  • Would there  be a need for increased road maintenance for the access points to the station?
  • What relevant evidence is there that this station will spur economic development here when the Sturtevant station has not?

See Part Two of our Citizens Guide to ‘High Speed’ Rail Construction Debate.