Wisconsin Gateway Corridor Coalition
Posted: August 5, 2011
When I went to my first meeting of the Wisconsin Gateway Corridor Coalition, I expected to find a bunch of high-speed rail geeks rallying around one another and complaining about how Governor Scott Walker dissed them by refusing the $850 million in federal funding to help build a high-speed rail network from Milwaukee to Madison. Instead, I found a group of very influential city and county officials from West Central Wisconsin who are frustrated because they are having trouble getting things done as they attempt to promote a more efficient mode of transportation between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities.
Since Governor Walker decided to eliminate the need for any federal funds to help support the construction of a high-speed rail network in Wisconsin, a number of area officials have decided to do their due diligence to determine if either express bus, light-rail transit, bus-rapid transit or commuter rail service are an option to help the flow of traffic on Interstate 94 between the Chippewa Valley and the Twin Cities.
Unfortunately, as the Gateway Corridor Coalition just started to get going, the Governor's office shot it down by not allowing the Department of Transportation to hold any public informational meetings to solicit input about the positives and negatives associated with the various options. In addition, Governor Walker also abolished the concept of creating RTAs, or Regional Transit Authorities.
The cities of Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls had already established the nuts and bolts of an RTA prior to the governor's office pulling the plug. The creation of an RTA would allow local units of government to find an alternative method to fund any studies or help with the construction of a new transportation mode for improving the traffic flow in Western Wisconsin.
I realize that our new governor is attempting to set a higher standard for public spending. I congratulate him on his ability to push through his agenda, but I doubt whether his budget-cutting initiatives would ever occur if it weren't for the fact that Republicans control both the assembly and senate. On the other hand, I wish Walker would act like a Republican of old - that is, to let local governmental bodies make decisions without any state finances at risk, to study the potential for improvements for their constituents and possibly make travel easier for the public body.
The fact of the matter is that the Wisconsin Gateway Corridor Coalition consists of members who can get things done on both the state and local level. It's a shame that our newly-elected govenor is hampering its ability to do its job.