Saturday, August 21, 2010


The State's Application for High Speed Rail
Would Benefit Private Freight Hauler

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Railroad Repair Shop Planned for Madison (!)
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Busalacchi's Letter of Dismissal of Oconomowoc Seen in New Light

Special to the Readers of Plenty of Horne

By Michael Horne

And The Plenty of Horne Hound Dog Team

[Secretary Frank Busalacchi's abrupt and curt dismissal of Oconomowoc as a train station reveals the anguish of a suitor spurned, as the Hound Dog noted while sniffing through the state's application for high speed rail funds.--Ed.]

The final sentence of Transportation Secretary Frank J. Busalacchi's letter to Oconomowoc Mayor James Daley "discontinuing further discussions on a proposed station in Oconomowoc" is a classic:
As the overall project moves forward, we will continue to work with the City and residents on rail crossing issues and a rail corridor management plan to ensure the train passes swiftly and safely through the City of Oconomowoc."

Ouch! You can feel the pain of Busalacchi, the spurned suitor. "If you don't want me, I'll leave you in the dirt. Or perhaps in the gravel deposits with which Mother Nature has so abundantly pitted your county."

If you take a look at the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation Rail Grant Application filed late in 2009, you will find that Busalacchi was practically wistful while ruminating about the attractiveness of Oconomowoc as a rail station:

"Oconomowoc is a community that thrives on its natural beauty, rich history and lake access.
"Public service buildings such as the Oconomowoc Public Library and City Hall are all within walking distance to the proposed train station.
"In addition to connecting the community, the station will provide a link to other modes of transportation such as direct connection to the local transit system, Waukesha Metro."

Positively lyric, and only slightly disingenuous -- that part about access to Oconomowoc Lake is a corker, since homeowners there have been quite successful in limiting lake access to themselves.

In a similar vein, and in retrospect, we can see how Busalacchi's application must have frightened the residents of Oconomowoc and their tremulous new mayor. Why, the DOT envisions "connecting the community."
Among the insular Oconomowocowians, there is no need for a connection, particularly --
"a direct connection to the local transit system, Waukesha Metro" -- which itself has direct connections to the Milwaukee County Transit System.

Whatever made Busalacchi think the citizens of Oconomowoc would stand for that!


A reading of the application reveals a few nuggets of information:

  • A train maintenance / repair / shop facility is planned for Madison.
Comment: Madison! The city that can't find the screwdriver, and wouldn't know which end to use. The train shops should be located in Milwaukee.

  • Plenty of the money for the rail corridor will go to a private corporation. The Canadian Pacific Railroad will perform the Milwaukee - Watertown improvements using its crews and contractors under DOT supervision. (The Watertown to Madison improvements will be done via DOT contracts.)
  • The rail improvements throughout the corridor will also benefit freight trains by providing faster service and lower cost per mile.
Comment: Profit-making companies like CP could become more profitable. [Second quarter earnings $162 million, up 96%]. More freight will be carried on Wisconsin rails; the state will benefit from increased revenues both direct and indirect from its natural position as a freight corridor.

  • The rail improvements will make for more skilled employees at Canadian Pacific, according to the application:
"Canadian Pacific Railway uses projects such as this to provide valuable understudy experience for new and existing employees. Employees and others who gain experience from this project will be valuable for deployment of future high speed rail vision."

Comment: Future high speed rail vision should probably include the complete separation of high speed passenger rail lines from the much slower freight traffic, such as we find in many developed nations. There is concern over the incompatibility of freight and passenger traffic in many transportation circles, as seen in this item from the site.

But, for now, CP will get some much-needed improvements to its corridor while we await the era of true high speed rail. This is a complicated, nuanced subject. For further enlightenment on the matter, make sure to turn off your AM radio.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well put.