Economic development follows the whistle of passenger rail

Opinion by Tom Still, President of the Wisconsin technology Council

The Marquette interchange in Milwaukee cost more than $800 million to rebuild between 2004 and 2008, and few people seriously questioned whether that “subsidy” of Wisconsin’s highway transportation system would pay for itself many times over.

Milwaukee’s Zoo interchange, the mix-master for I-94, I-894 and Highway 45, could cost $2.3 billion to rebuild once work begins in 2012. Again, most people familiar with the volume of statewide commerce passing through that intersection can agree reconstruction is a much-needed investment.

But suggest a relatively tiny $7.5 million per year subsidy for a high-speed rail line that could redefine Wisconsin’s connections to Chicago and the Twin Cities, and the same folks who barely blink at billion-dollar concrete projects turn into raging fiscal hawks.