Congressman Wants Public Hearing on Environmental Impact of Planned Milwaukee-Madison Rail Line

MacIver News Service | October 13, 2010

[Brookfield, Wisc…] Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner wants a federal agency to hold hearing on the environmental impact of the proposed Milwaukee-Madison rail line because the project design has changed dramatically since the last review nine years ago.

“The plan has changed and FEMA has done a remapping of the state therefore the Environmental Impact Statement is out of date,” Sensenbrenner told MacIver News. “We shouldn’t be giving waivers because this is a politically correct project.”

The Republican sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offering comments on the environmental assessment that is being conducted in conjunction with the permit for the proposed passenger rail service between Milwaukee and Madison.

The permit under consideration is for the first phase of the 85-mile long project to reinstate and upgrade the passenger rail service.

“I disagree with rushing the first phase of this project to construction without allowing the public’s concerns to be heard,” Sensenbrenner wrote to Ms. Tamara Cameron, Chief of the Regulatory Branch, St. Paul Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Congressman Sensenbrenner said he wrote the letter to because he is concerned that the public hearing on the environmental assessment was held in 2001 and the impact to wetlands in the communities has increased “from 13.5 acres at the time of the hearing to 23.8 acres in the permit application.”

Sensenbrenner readily admits that a new environmental review could stall the project.

“We can’t afford to do this project in good times, much less now,” said Sensenbrenner. “Regardless, we should follow the rules.”

The Congressman said politics shouldn’t impact the standard regulatory process for a project of this scope.

“I have opposed this rail project from the inception because it is plain and simply a boondoggle that we can’t afford,” said Sensenbrenner. “However, at the very least the public has a right to public hearings to learn about the impact this will have on their communities.  This is why we have a public comment period.  I fear without additional hearings, the public will not know fully what it’s getting itself into.”

Click here for previous coverage on the train project.