Sunday, August 18th, 2019

The train is cool


Ann Althouse took a photo-walk of the UW-Madison campus and came across the following sign,

Photo by Ann Althouse

Althouse, calling the sign, “horrifying,” comments,

“Fast Trains Are Cool.” As if the government should provide us with everything, even coolness. Big Brother loves you, and Big Brother will also supply the coolness that’s currently missing in your gray little life. Wow! We can go fast. Train go fast. Student not think about who pay for cool fast train. Ride train. Train cool.

Meanwhile in Brookfield, WI, the price tag for that cool train is a little much.

“I do not wish to pre-empt the role of the common council by my actions,” Ponto states in the memo. “However, I do want to make my position clear. I oppose spending any City of Brookfield tax dollars to build a railroad station, platform or parking lot, and I have repeatedly stated that position to residents, the news media and DOT officials.”

Ponto states that in the summer of 2009, DOT officials told Brookfield officials the cost of the train station would be covered by state and federal funds, but local officials were asked to estimate construction costs, according to the memo.

The memo states Brookfield initially estimated the construction to cost $17.9 million, but the department encouraged leaders to be sure the estimate was for a first-class facility and would provide more parking, which bumped up the estimate to $30 million.

When Ponto took office, he said the state had reduced the budget of the passenger rail stations to $5 million, but it has since increased the proposed allocation to $7 million and prepared a number of alternative cost estimates, the lowest of which is $12.9 million.

Looks like Ponto is asking the #1 and #2 questions that should be asked, according to the MacIver Institute’s “Citizens’ Guide to High Speed Rail Construction Debate.”  Here’s the list of train station-related questions:

  • How much would the construction of a station in this city cost?
  • How much of that construction cost would be borne by local taxpayers?
  • What impact would this have on the average property tax bill?
  • Who would sign the contract to build the station?
  • What impact would this project have on other capital projects planned by this city?
  • What impact would this project have on our city’s bond rating?
  • Has an environmental impact study been conducted similar to what any private construction project would be subject to?
  • Would the station construction project go through an open-bidding process wherein our local officials could choose the lowest bidder?
  • Are there any union vendor or living wage requirements associated with this project?
  • Who would be responsible for cost overruns for station construction?
  • What are the projected annual maintenance costs this local municipality would have to bear?
  • Would there be a need for increased police protection as the result of the estimated number of passengers getting on and off the train each year?
  • Would there  be a need for increased road maintenance for the access points to the station?
  • What relevant evidence is there that this station will spur economic development here when the Sturtevant station has not?

Of course, asking those questions may arouse the wrath of Doyle’s DOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi, who may cancel the planned station without giving any explanation. Given the estimated price tag of the station, that wouldn’t be much of a punishment for Brookfield.

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