By Steve Jagler Special to Published Dec 10, 2010 at 3:03 PM
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.

From the evening that we broke the news that Wisconsin had been allocated $810 million in federal funding for high-speed rail to Thursday's announcement that the state's allocation will instead be given to other states such as Illinois, California and New York, has been ground zero for news, analysis and commentary about the project.

Knowing full well that our audience was divided about the issue, we carefully steered clear of taking a stance one way or the other, opting instead to be the messenger and a conduit of the community's commentary.

And so, we'll serve up a missive today on what appears to be the final chapter of the story.

We'll start with the statements of Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker, who alone will be credited for helping steer the state clear of this "boondoggle" or will be forever blamed for missing an opportunity to link the state to the Midwest high-speed rail grid and upgrade the state's tracks for freight trains in the process.

Here's what Walker had to say: "As I said along the campaign trail, we didn't need and couldn't afford the Madison to Milwaukee rail line. While I would have preferred to have the $810 million reallocated to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, I am glad that the transportation fund will not be on the hook for a minimum of $7.5 million of operating subsidies every year. Wisconsin taxpayers were victorious today in defeating this project. The last election showed that Wisconsinites oppose runaway government spending. The Madison to Milwaukee train line is dead."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs retorted:

"Both gubernatorial candidates (in Wisconsin and Ohio), now governors-elect, told us they weren't going to spend that money as the law is written. And if grants that are obligated to places that aren't going to use them as the law intends, then we will give that money to places that will use it as the law intends. You can ask governors-elect whether they decided not to put people in their own state to work just because Barack Obama proposed it as a project. My hunch is that there are people sitting around their kitchen tables in Ohio and Wisconsin who are wondering why they're not at work because (of) a partisan political food-fight by a governor-elect."

The comments rolled in Thursday from near and far. Here they are, in the order in which we received them. You will notice there are more comments for high-speed rail than against it. My guess is that the folks who lost out are more impassioned about the result than those who won right now. But who knows? As always, we invite all readers to share their thoughts at the end of this posting.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee):

"A month before he's even been sworn into to office, Governor-elect Walker has lost good jobs for Wisconsinites. He's denied our state an opportunity to be part of a new, nationwide transportation system that would have brought economic benefits along with it. Instead of graciously accepting a return of our hard-earned tax dollars, Governor-elect Walker's hard-lined position is sending them somewhere else to create jobs. I hope to be proven wrong, but I think this will build a fence around Wisconsin. We'll be forced to watch economic development in Illinois and in Minnesota as both states continue a commitment to a rail a line that connects Chicago and the Twin Cities. And it's a gift we'll have handed them."

Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman Mike Tate:

"Scott Walker has succeeded in killing Wisconsin jobs. Having done nothing in Milwaukee to create jobs during his entire term, he now begins his administration having killed 13,000 of them, all to appease his core constituency, a group of extremists more committed to their narrow-minded
ideology than to creating jobs. Walker hasn't even taken office, and he already has disgraced his legacy by putting his boot to the throat of Wisconsin's working families. Shame on him."

Outgoing Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle:

"Secretary (Ray) LaHood today advised me that because of Governor-elect Walker's adamant opposition to the rail project, the $810 million awarded to Wisconsin will now be allocated to other states. This is a tragic moment for the State of Wisconsin. Our team worked hard to win a national
competition to make us a leader in high speed passenger rail. We were positioned to be not only a center of the line, but to be a manufacturing center as well. Now we are moving from being the leader, to the back of the line. Eight hundred and ten million dollars that would have gone to create thousands of jobs in Wisconsin will now create jobs in other states. Bogus arguments that this money can be used for roads have been proven false.

"As Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota continue to work on the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, the connection of Chicago to Minneapolis will avoid Wisconsin. Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Eau Claire and other Wisconsin communities will lose the benefit of those connections. Together with many others I have worked hard to move Wisconsin into the future. I obviously am deeply saddened to see us take a major step backward."

One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross:

"Scott Walker promised Wisconsin he would create 250,000 jobs, but instead he is determined to ship the thousands and thousands of jobs Midwest high speed rail would bring out of Wisconsin. Scott Walker's version of leadership is putting partisan politics before the job creation, economic development and the needs of Wisconsin's families. If Wisconsin loses these jobs, there is only person to blame, and that is Scott Walker."

Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls):

"It is to the Wisconsin taxpayers' benefit that they will no longer be required to pick-up the additional tab for a high-speed train that the majority of residents will never ride. However, with our nation facing a nearly $14 trillion debt, it is an absolute mistake for the federal government to redistribute $808 million from Wisconsin to other states, instead of returning that money to the U.S. Treasury Department and using it to help pay down our deficit, as I've called for in legislation I introduced in Congress."

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.):

"I'm disappointed to see this project leave Wisconsin. High-speed rail held a lot of promise to create thousands of jobs and spur economic growth."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett:

"This is a terrible loss of family-supporting, good-paying jobs in Milwaukee and throughout the State of Wisconsin and a shameful slap in the face to all the workers who would have benefitted from this significant investment in transportation and infrastructure. With so many construction workers out of work, this project could have been the perfect spark to help turn the economy around. Someday soon the Governor of California, New York or Illinois will christen their high speed rail line, and it will be called the 'Badger line'."

Citizen Action of Wisconsin executive director Robert Kraig:

"This is a devastating blow to Wisconsin's economic recovery. Scott Walker's actions amount to economic treason. He is literally giving away thousands of family sustaining jobs to other states in the middle of the worst jobs crisis Wisconsin has faced in decades. This is also a devastating blow to the re-development of Milwaukee's north side. The Talgo high-speed train plant is the leading edge of re-development of a blighted industrial area that once provided 8,000 family supporting jobs. It is appalling that this economic hope is being snatched away from Milwaukee."

Milwaukee Ald. Milele Coggs:

"The announcement by the federal Department of Transportation that it is taking back the $810 million for high speed rail in Wisconsin and instead sending that money to other states for their high speed rail projects is saddening and shocking. The decision is a great loss for Wisconsin and its largest cities, and I believe the cost of not building high speed rail lines in Wisconsin -- in terms of jobs, economic development, business development, etc. -- will be much higher than the $810 million. The fact that Milwaukee and Wisconsin will not be connected to the Midwest high-speed rail network means lost opportunities also in tourism and visitors. It also means Milwaukee residents won't have the ability to access high speed rail (and all of its destination connections) like our neighbors in Illinois and in several other states."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:

"High-speed rail will modernize America's valuable transportation network, while reinvigorating the manufacturing sector and putting people back to work in good-paying jobs. I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America's high-speed rail network to life."

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO president Phil Neuenfeldt:

"Today's announcement that Wisconsin's federal grant money for high speed rail construction will be reallocated to create high quality jobs in other states is a clear indication that our elected leaders are putting political ideology above the needs of Wisconsin working families. 15,000 family sustaining jobs were lost today, and the callous, short-sighted actions that cost our state so much will not soon be forgotten."

Milwaukee County Supervisor Michael Mayo Sr.:

"The decision to pull funding for high-speed rail in Wisconsin is a serious blow to economic development in Wisconsin. I am disappointed that these dollars are being sent to boost the economies of other states like California, Florida and Illinois. Instead, these federal dollars should be redirected to shore up funding for existing mass transit in Milwaukee County, which is at risk of entering a death spiral.

"The Milwaukee County Transit System has serious needs, and even just 10 percent of the $810 million being redirected could have an immediate and lasting impact in Milwaukee County. I am calling on U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Governor Jim Doyle, Governor-Elect Scott Walker, and all of our federal and state representatives to take any and all action necessary to prioritize funding for our bus system."

Steve Jagler Special to

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at