Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

UPDATE: Republicans oppose Wisconsin Talgo deal

We always hesitate to get involved too deeply in the state politics surrounding high speed rail. Florida and Texas have taught us to stand back and gasp in amazement. California? Well, you get the picture.

The happenings in Wisconsin demand some consideration, with an advance proviso that TFA welcomes more informed local insights. The latest story has to do with Republican objections to the announced purchase of Talgos.

Republicans object? Yeah, seems so hard to believe coming from a party of potent intellectual standing and vibrant well-conceived forward looking policies.

The Wisconsin State Journal has a lengthy report and I sense they attempted to get various opinions and to use professional journalistic standards.

Wisconsin didn’t hold a competitive bidding process before agreeing to purchase two high-speed passenger trains from a Spanish company last month for $47.5 million, potentially missing out on other offers.

Officials with Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration said they bought the Patentes Talgo trains because they are ideally suited to high-speed rail in the Midwest. They said they also needed to move quickly to tap into possible federal stimulus money and land jobs for Wisconsin workers assembling the trains.

Two things to keep in mind. According to the report, the transaction was legal. Further, the legislature has to appropriate the money, so the checks and balances are working right out in the open. Republicans will have every opportunity to kill this venture.

One GOP budget committee member says he will vote against the transaction, citing the tough economic times. I guess that will go down very well with the unemployed manufacturing workers who will not be hired by Talgo. Republicans observe that the Spanish government paid for Wisconsin officials to visit and this may have had an undue influence.

Never mind that Talgo trains operate satisfactorily in the Pacific northwest and meet FRA standards. The State Journal also reports that the state did seek information from other manufacturers of rail equipment, but did not seem to have issued an official RFP.

Why would officials move forward so quickly. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel adds some clarity in another well reported story..

But transportation officials already had decided Talgo was the best company for the job, Jambois said.

That’s because only Talgo trains have the tilt-train technology to handle tight curves at high speeds without jolting passengers, and because their lightweight construction allows quicker acceleration and deceleration, he said.

Among Wisconsin’s planned high-speed rail routes, transportation officials count 17 curves of 2 degrees or more in the 86 miles between Chicago and Milwaukee; 20 such curves in the 79 miles between Milwaukee and Madison; 125 curves in the 266 miles between Madison and the Twin Cities; and 58 curves in the 131 miles between Milwaukee and Green Bay, Jambois wrote in a May 11 memo to Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi.

If the state has to straighten out those curves, track upgrades for high-speed rail would cost $60 million a mile, [Transportation Department General Counsel Robert] Jambois said in an interview. But using tilt-train technology cuts the cost to $5 million a mile, he said.

Anyway, that’s what those wacky cheeseheads are up to today.

UPDATE: The Monday Wisconsin State Journal has a note from its blog on politics concerning the Talgo contract.

Three other companies expressed interest in a state purchase of two high-speed passenger trains that was awarded to a Spanish company last month for $47.5 million without a competitive bidding process.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

One Response

  1. Nathanael says:

    This is an appropriate use of “no-bid”.

    The trains are off-the-shelf tech, not a custom job, and Wisconsin seems to have clearly explained why Talgo had the best product on the market. And no rail manufacturer would be willing to develop the paperwork for a bid for a two-train order with no locomotives (it’s embarassingly small).

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