The train is gone, why does Talgo have to go with it?
The high speed train that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said would never die is now dead. Blame Scott Walker, blame citizens who wouldn’t get on board with the idea, blame LaHood for taking the money back after seeing the writing on the wall.
I’ve never been convinced that Wisconsinites would park their cars and hop the train. I know I wasn’t going to drive 5 miles from my home in West Allis to either the Intermodal Station or the planned Brookfield stop to board a train that would take longer to get to Madison than the drive.
So the train advocates are bemoaning the loss of the project and the 55 permanent jobs the line itself would have brought, but what I don’t understand is why does Talgo have to go?
Talgo announced Friday that it would close its Milwaukee manufacturing operations in 2010, citing the end of the high-speed rail project. They will keep a maintenance facility in the city, but move everything else to a more “train-friendly” state.
Currently, Talgo is hiring 125 workers to construct 2 train sets for the Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line and 2 trains for the state of Oregon. None of those trains would have run on the line between Milwaukee and Madison. We still have the Hiawatha and the Empire Builder that runs to Minneapolis, so why the rush to leave?
Leaving the state because we won’t be using the product they make is idiotic. Milwaukee has a number of international businesses that make equipment for coal, gold and copper mining, and we don’t do any of those things here. In fact, the last mine in the state of Wisconsin closed over a decade ago.
Using Talgo’s logic, maybe Bucyrus and Ladish should pick up and move to West Virginia, Colorado or even China, where their biggest markets are.
Talgo won’t say where they plan on moving to, but Illinois is a good bet. Gov. Patrick Quinn has actively been pursuing the company and LaHood did give our southern neighbor a nice chunk of the $810 million he pulled from Wisconsin.
I have no inside information, but I would guess that Talgo would have chosen Wisconsin to build trains due to the trained workforce, close access to suppliers and central location to North American markets whether we had the Obama-line or not. And with the soon-to-come reductions in income and business taxes, business regulations and revamped Commerce Department under Governor-elect Walker, doing business in Wisconsin will be a better prospect than in regulation-heavy Illinois.
Could this be a political game hatched up by Tom Barrett? He may look like a nice guy, but underneath he’s probably the same kind of cold, strategizing politician who is looking forward to his next election and higher offices.
Barrett now has a point he can dredge up for the next four years as he tries to figure out how pry Walker out of the governor’s chair. That argument, along with Barrett’s threatened suit against the state to recoup the funds used for the long-needed cleanup at the old Tower Automotive site, sound more like sour grapes than the “grown-up leadership” Barrett touted during the election.
Instead, Barrett should work with Walker to keep Talgo here – hold them to their contract with the city, build up the benefits we still have as a manufacturing state and the benefits that will be coming. Talgo leaders should look at the next two years as an investment to be built upon, and not a temporary stop.
- Talgo’s Wisconsin Trains Find Home In… Nigeria - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 18th, 2022
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Why Talgo Stays in Milwaukee - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 12th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Talgo Lands $139 Million Contract - Jeramey Jannene - May 14th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: New Locomotives for Amtrak - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 1st, 2017
- The Return of Talgo - Graham Kilmer - Jul 17th, 2017
- Plenty of Horne: Welcome Back, Talgo USA! - Michael Horne - Nov 25th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Talgo Coming Back to Milwaukee - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 26th, 2016
- Op-Ed: Walker’s High Speed Folly - Spencer Black - May 26th, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: The Twisted Tale of Talgo - Bruce Murphy - Aug 25th, 2015
- The Last Train from Talgo - Bruce Murphy - May 29th, 2014
Read more about History of Talgo in Milwaukee here