Rail Plans Move at High Speed Despite Widespread Opposition

MacIver News Service | September 14, 2010

[Madison, Wisc…] The State of Wisconsin is soliciting bids for work on the controversial high speed rail line.

The Business Journal of Milwaukee is reporting that on Tuesday the state opened bidding for construction of the high-speed rail track improvements in Jefferson County.

According to the Journal:

The contract out for bids includes earthwork, bridge construction and some road construction for the track. The length of track stretches from Jefferson County Trunk Highway G to State Highway 89 just east of the city of Waterloo.

If the work is complete by the Sept. 2, 2011, deadline, the contractor that does the work will receive a $500,000 bonus. The contractor will be fined $50,000 for every day past Sept. 2 that the project is not complete.

Bids are due Sept. 28 for the project, which is the first the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has advertised for track construction on the Milwaukee to Madison high-speed rail project. WisDOT officials have said they plan for construction work to begin in October.

The bid process is the latest proof that Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials are moving full speed ahead with implementation of a proposed Madison to Milwaukee rail plan despite high profile opposition to the project and uncertainty regarding the location of train stations along the route.

Last month the DOT scrapped plans to place a station in Oconomowoc after city officials asked questions regarding the City’s short and long term financial obligations for station construction and maintenance.  The Governor’s office maintains they have no records regarding the decision. The Department of Transportation has yet to respond to a request for documents regarding the incident.

On Thursday the DOT is holding a community workshop from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at the Marshall Elementary School. The department indicates the meeting is an opportunity for the public to learn more about the project and design activities in the Milwaukee-Madison rail corridor. Project staff will be available to answer corridor and station development process questions. Similar meetings have been held this summer in Milwaukee, Brookfield, Oconomowoc, Waterloo, Watertown, Sun Prairie and Madison.

Next Tuesday, September 21, the city council in Brookfield is expected to vote on a measure or measures relating the construction of a train station there. At a public meeting last month, a large majority of speakers testified in opposition to the station.

As of press time, the Republican Gubernatorial nominee had not been chosen, but both men seeking the job have vowed to stop the Milwaukee-Madison project.  However, the Secretary of the US Department of Transportation has gone so far as to say during a recent visit to Wisconsin. “High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin—there’s no stopping it.”