Friday, August 28, 2009From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:
The news earlier this month that the five-mile stretch of Interstate 94 from its junction with I-90-39 east to the Cottage Grove exit will immediately be expanded from four to six lanes caused barely a ripple.
I point this out because those five miles will eat up $43 million in federal stimulus money to make it faster and more convenient for cars and trucks to travel those five miles -- about the cost, coincidentally, of the $47 million that Gov. Jim Doyle has decided to spend on two high-speed train sets that he hopes someday soon will speed passengers from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and back.
While tens of millions being spent to widen an already wide ribbon of concrete drew nothing but yawns, Doyle was beat over the head by Republican legislators, talk radio and several newspaper editorials for signing a deal with a Spanish firm to provide the trains and open a maintenance facility in the state.
But such has been the fate of passenger rail for decades now. The naysayers proclaim that we don't want to "waste" money on train travel, sounding as if we don't waste money on wider highways that only encourage more inefficient travel by automobile. To paraphrase the admonition in "Field of Dreams" -- build those highways and they will come. Just look at the relatively new South Beltline here in Madison: gridlock nearly every day in the morning and early evening.