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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Wisconsin halts work on HSR project


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has told contractors to stop work on the high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, according to an article published yesterday on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s website.

“At [Gov. Jim Doyle’s] request, I have asked contractors and consultants working on the high speed rail project to temporarily interrupt their work for a few days," Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi said in a written statement, according to “In light of the election results, our agency will be taking a few days to assess the real-world consequences, including the immediate impacts to people and their livelihoods, if this project were to be stopped.”

The move follows Tuesday’s election of Scott Walker as governor. Walker has said he will stop the project once he takes office.

Wisconsin received $810 million in high-speed stimulus funds to construct the Milwaukee-to-Madison line, over which trains would operate at speeds up to 79 mph. Although federal funds would cover the majority of the project, Walker has said he doesn’t want the state to be saddled with the line’s operating costs.

Meanwhile, the future of the Talgo plant recently built in Milwaukee could be affected if the state decides not to proceed with its high-speed rail line. Wisconsin DOT has purchased two train sets from the Spanish manufacturer to be used on the Hiawatha line between Chicago and Milwaukee. The contract included an option for two additional trains that would operate between Milwaukee and Madison.

As of Friday morning, Talgo had yet to return a message left yesterday by

Also uncertain: how a formal grant agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration and Wisconsin DOT signed last weekend could impact Walker’s ability to stop the project.

Earlier this week, U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson Olivia Alair said in an email to that the agreement “will ensure Wisconsin benefits from the $810 million Recovery Act investment in passenger rail service between Milwaukee and Madison as part of President Obama’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (HSIPR).” When asked about the legal implications of the grant agreement, and if it could prevent Walker from stopping the project, Alair said: “We don’t have anything further to add on this.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/5/2010