Capitol Report: 'No train' campaign promise a popular one among GOP candidates nationwide

2010-10-07T09:01:00Z 2012-05-22T17:35:43Z Capitol Report: 'No train' campaign promise a popular one among GOP candidates nationwideJESSICA VANEGEREN | The Capital Times |

Scott Walker is not the only GOP candidate for governor making it a campaign promise to put the brakes on federal stimulus money for high-speed rail projects if elected this November.

The Milwaukee County executive is among a handful of candidates who has been speaking out against billions of dollars in federal money on the campaign stump, according to a recent article by the New York Times.

Others include candidates from some of the states that petitioned for and received some of the largest amounts of high-speed rail funds, including Ohio, California and Florida.

According to the New York Times article, the nation's most ambitious high-speed rail project, California's $45 billion plan to link Los Angeles and San Francisco with trains that would go up to 220 miles per hour, could be delayed if Meg Whitman, a Republican, is elected governor.

"In the face of the state's current fiscal crisis, Meg doesn't believe we can afford the costs associated with new high-speed rail at this time," said Tucker Bounds, a campaign spokesman.

Her talking points are similar to Walker's.

In his interview with the Times, Walker reiterated a point he also made for a recent Capital Times article on the topic.

In both interviews, Walker cites his belief that few people will ride the train from Milwaukee to Madison (so why fund it) as well as the state's inability to fund the yearly operating cost to run the line. He puts the cost between $7 and $10 million.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, however, told The Capital Times it expected to receive roughly 90 percent of the line's operating cost from the federal government.

This belief is based on the fact that the state DOT routinely has received 90 percent of the operating cost to run the Hiawatha Line from Milwaukee to Chicago.

This year, for example, the cost to operate that line is $5.5 million. The federal government is paying all but $520,000, or 10 percent, of the amount.

Despite the fact federal and state officials cite how difficult it would be for the GOP candidates to funnel money to other projects, they do agree that if the money was turned away, it would simply be awarded to another state that did want to move forward with rail.

So is this the year that a switch from a Democrat to a Republican in states like Wisconsin could mean the end of the line for some of the largest and priciest high-speed rail projects in the country?

Maybe. As in any election, the voters will decide.

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