March 19. 2012 9:30AM - Last modified: March 19. 2012 9:37AM

Republican legislators deny funding for Milwaukee train facility

The vestiges of a high-speed rail project that was rejected by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continue to play out in the state, as the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee rejected a Wisconsin Transportation Department request for $2.5 million in bonding for design costs for a passenger rail maintenance facility in Milwaukee.

The committee voted, 12-4, to deny the request and require the department to reimburse any expenses made with DOT bond funding for the facility.
Committee Co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) called the facility part of "a bad train deal" that does not go away.
"We do not want to keep burying ourselves with this very bad deal that the Doyle administration put is in," Darling said, referring to a contract the Doyle administration had signed with Spanish trainmaker Talgo to build the trains.
Democrats on the committee first moved to approve the request, saying the committee should support the facility to help alleviate a jobs crisis in Milwaukee. The motion was rejected along party lines.
Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) called the GOP proposal "grossly irresponsible," and he predicted it would lead to mothballed trains, lost jobs and a lawsuit due to a breach of the state's Talgo contract.
"Wisconsin's word ought to mean something," added Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar).
Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade) said Democrats were only interested in jobs because taxpayer dollars were on the line.
"One side wants to use public sector dollars, taxpayer dollars to create jobs," LeMahieu said. "The other side wants to use private sector dollars."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett expressed his disappointment about the committee's decision at a press conference this afternoon.
"It's important for us to do what we can to create jobs in this community. We need a pragmatic to this situation to help us create jobs. Let's come to the table, let's roll up our sleeves and let's get the job done," Barrett said.
Barrett said he was concerned about the impact the state's decision will have on the 80 jobs that Talgo, a Spanish firm, created in Milwaukee.
"I spoke to Talgo officials and told them I would do everything I can to keep their trains and manufacturing facility running in Milwaukee," Barrett said. "It certainly calls into question for any business that comes here, what is it like to do business in Wisconsin."
Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend said, "It's clearly political. They kept referring to this deal that was made with the previous (Doyle) administration."
She would not say if Talgo will file a lawsuit. "This does not void the contract," Friend said.
Talgo plans to work with the DOT so the agency can "remedy the situation," Friend said.
One possibility is to have the maintenance work done at Milwaukee's Century City site at the former Tower Automotive site, where the trains are being built. The contract indicates that maintenance of the trains is to be done there until a permanent maintenance facility is built in 2014.
The Century City site could be used as a permanent maintenance facility at a cost of $30 million for track upgrades, Friend said. That would be a lower cost alternative to the DOT's plans, but would be less ideal than a new maintenance facility built near the downtown Intermodal Station.
The DOT is considering two sites in Milwaukee to build a train maintenance facility. One site is a 4.36-acre parcel located at 6th Street, just west of the downtown Intermodal train and bus station. The cost to build a facility at that site is estimated at $58.8 million to $74.6 million. The other site is a six-acre parcel located at 17th Street in Menomonee Valley. The cost to build a facility at that site is estimated at $53.7 million
Walker rejected $810 million in federal funding that had been allocated by the Obama administration to Wisconsin to upgrade the Amtrak rail line between Chicago and Milwaukee and build a high-speed rail line connecting Milwaukee to Madison. The project also would have prepared for the eventual extension of the high-speed line through Wisconsin to Minneapolis.
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