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Photo credit: Karen Hickey  

Wisconsin AFL-CIO field communications coordinator Karen Hickey sends us this report on a rally to save a high-speed rail project and its nearly 15,000 jobs that Republican Gov.-elect Scott Walker says he will cancel.

This afternoon, some 350 concerned citizens representing a broad coalition of labor and community organizations rallied in Milwaukee to protest Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s decision to stop construction on an $810 million high-speed rail project.

Canceling the project—which would provide a vital commuter connection between Milwaukee and Madison and spur future economic development—will cost Wisconsin both family-supporting jobs and money. Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt told the crowd:

The federal government has made it clear that these funds cannot be diverted to other projects or used for other purposes. Now that the election campaign rhetoric is dying down, we are very hopeful that Gov.-elect Walker will take a look at the facts and allow rail development to move forward.

Beyond the immediate job creation associated with construction, high-speed rail infrastructure is an important step toward building commuter-friendly communities, as well as efficient, time-saving travel links between economic centers.  That encourages growth which benefits all kinds of businesses and creates good jobs.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that canceling the project would cost more than 4,700 construction jobs, and the Sierra Club estimates as many as 9,500 permanent jobs are at stake.

Walker cites fiscal grounds for his decision, but returning the $810 million in federal funding for this project would actually cost the state. Wisconsin would have to pay back the federal government and contractors for work already done.

In addition, the city of Milwaukee spent $10 million to buy the site where the trains are being built by Spanish manufacturer Talgo.  If the project is canceled, that blighted industrial area will suffer yet another major setback. Says Machinists (IAM) District 10 director Russ Krings:

These are good jobs worth fighting for. We have to do all we can to keep family-supporting jobs in Wisconsin.

The rally was sponsored by the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition and Voces de la Frontera.

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