Done Deal, or Not? Madison-Milw. Rail Advocates Plan Pre-Election Rally

MacIver News Service | October 8, 2010

[Madison, Wisc…] Several liberal activist groups are among those planning a large demonstration in favor of the Milwaukee-Madison rail project, to be held  just two weeks before this fall’s General Election.

Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, sent out an email alert to the group’s allies late Thursday night. In the message he announced the creation of a new website,, which is promoting a pre-election rally in Waukesha County.

The language on the website is intended to serve as a call to action for the plan’s advocates, who seem to understand the Milwaukee-Madison rail line’s completion is far from certain.

Stand up for your trains Wisconsin! For the last 14 years, different administrations, elected officials, agencies and travelers have been working towards rejuvenating Wisconsin’s passenger rail service. However, In the last 18 months critics have tried to derail this effort. It’s time to stand up in support of modernizing and extending passenger rail in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Let’s build on the very successful Hiawatha service and connect Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and other cities in Wisconsin to a midwestern passenger rail network. The construction and operation of an intercity rail system will bring jobs and economic development to Wisconsin.

This event is hosted by the Wisconsin Sierra Club, WISPIRG, ProRail and several other organizations.

The event is scheduled for Noon on October 16th at the Country Springs Hotel.

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker has vowed to stop construction of the $810 million Milwaukee-Madison project. Walker insists that even though the project’s construction is primarily paid for with federal Stimulus funds, the state cannot afford the annual operating costs. He said the funds, which could total upwards of $10 million a year, would come from monies that would be better spent on roads and bridges.

Many local communities along the route, including Oconomowoc and Brookfield, have asked the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to provide more information as to the cost and ongoing expenses their communities would incur to build and operate proposed train stations. When Oconomowoc requested details from the DOT earlier this year, state officials scrubbed plans for a station in that city.

United States Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Wisconsin this summer and said “High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin—there’s no stopping it.”

However the planned October rally and the email from Harnish suggest rail advocates know that completion of the project is far from certain.