Milwaukee County Supervisor Chris Larson has blasted state Sen. Jeff Plale’s cunning plan to divert federal money that was allocated for development of a passenger rail corridor between Madison and Milwaukee in order to fix the ailing Hoan Bridge. It is of course no secret that Larson is a progressive embodiment of the anti-incumbent mood of the season as he challenges the incumbent Sen. Plale in the September primary.
Plale’s attitude toward transit and roads was illustrated earlier this year, when he scuttled the state’s Clean Energy Act by not bringing it up for a vote in committee. Now, Plale wants to use the money that the federal government has said will be used for mass transit, and throw it repairing the Hoan Bridge.
I for one would like to know what, if anything, Plale had done before this to assist in keeping the bridge structurally sound. Frankly, I don’t think he’s done anything on it until just now, when it’s become a matter discussed in the news. The sate Dept. of Transportation plans to install netting to catch the pieces of concrete that are now falling from the bridge. It should not be too surprising that people are getting uneasy about falling pieces of concrete after the horrible tragedy at O’Donnell Park.
Long-time Milwaukeeans will recall when part of the bridge’s support structure collapsed ten years ago.
Suddenly, Plale makes it look like he can get the transit money rerouted and plowed into a highway instead of a clean, job-producing rail line. Not so fast, says James Rowen. Plale knows “that these federal rail grant funds cannot be shifted around like substituting fries for mashed potatoes on a diner menu.”
Rowen is also right to point out that “road-building has gotten virtually all Wisconsin’s transportation (sic) budgeting forever, [and furthermore] there is no relationship between fixing the Hoan and planning high speed rail.”
Rowen asks, “Would they be asking for a rail repair from highway construction dollars if the circumstances were reversed?”
I didn’t think so, either.
Finally, Rowen and Larson have correctly called this out as a political stunt, an attempt by Plale to make it look like he’s done something for his constituents. (Making it possible for AT&T to raise its rates on its customers does not count as such, although that’s what Plale did with his deregulation bill. And it got his former chief of staff a cushy lobbying job with… AT&T! And that’s no joke.)
Larson pointed out how futile and unhelpful Plale’s stunt is: rather than making a real solution, “legislators are trying to grab headlines with a scheme that would require a sign-off by the President of the United States, Congress, the Governor, and the State legislature. You’d have a better chance at solving the problem using the money the Brewers had to pay Jeff Suppan to stop pitching. It’s not going to happen.”