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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Labor, community groups rally for Wisconsin high-speed rail project


As Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker threatens to shut down the Milwaukee-to-Madison high-speed rail project, labor and community groups are making it clear he won’t be able to do so without a fight.

Milwaukee-area labor and community groups held a rally on Nov. 15 to show support for Wisconsin's high-speed rail project.

Today, the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition, and Voces de la Frontera organized a rally at the Talgo Inc. manufacturing site in Milwaukee to show support for the $810 million high-speed rail project, as well as Talgo’s presence. The train manufacturer has said it would relocate its high-speed rail plant to another state in 2012 if Wisconsin terminates its program and, in turn, does not purchase additional train sets from Talgo.

The rally attracted more than 200 people chanting, “Talgo means jobs” and singing a rousing rendition of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

Several speakers addressed the crowd.

“We know that strong, confident leaders change their minds,” said Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt. “They have a responsibility to change their minds when 5,000 jobs are on the line. We need those jobs in Wisconsin and we’re asking Scott Walker to reconsider his position.”

Citizen Action of Wisconsin's Robert Kraig addresses the crowd.

More than 200 people attended the rally, expressing anger and disbelief that the state could lose hundreds of millions of federal dollars and thousands of jobs. Yet there is hope that Walker will reverse his decision. The governor-elect has said he’ll wait until after his January inauguration to make a final decision on the high-speed rail project, said Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig.

“Every day, there’s a little more room, another caveat,” he said. “We need to keep the pressure on.”

If community leaders don’t continue to fight for the project, the money could go to states such as Illinois, which already is making a bid for Wisconsin’s share of the high-speed stimulus funds.

“We have something other states want,” said Kraig. “Will we be creating jobs, or will we be the laughing stock of the whole country, giving money away?”

Wisconsin would not only be giving away money, but also its ability to play a role in a Midwestern high-speed rail network, said Milwaukee Alderman Willie Hines Jr.

“This will happen. Do we want it to happen in Wisconsin? Do we want to see the high-speed rail line go from Illinois through Iowa up to Minnesota? Or do we want to make sure Milwaukee and Madison are critical components?” he said. “We want rail in Wisconsin and we want it now.”

Angela Cotey

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/15/2010