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Stimulus not a cure-all for mass transit

Some state and local officials are getting excited about federal stimulus dollars coming to Wisconsin for mass transit.

But the dollars won't be a panacea.

Gov. Jim Doyle has announced that he and seven other Midwest governors have signed onto a letter that supports using federal stimulus dollars for a Midwest high speed rail system.

Wisconsin plans to apply for millions of dollars during phase one of the federal program, to connect Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison via the faster-moving trains. But questions linger about the proposed Madison stop being at the Dane county airport, not the downtown.

Rod Clark of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation says it would be too difficult for through service between Chicago and Minneapolis to go into downtown Madison. So he says the state and city of Madison continue to look at alternatives, including buses, vans or other technology for a downtown passage.

Meanwhile, backers of local bus systems are also hoping to get more stimulus dollars for new buses and other capital projects. Some of those systems are in tough shape after steering federal funds meant for new buses into basic operating expenses the last few years.

Ken Yunker heads the regional planning commission in southeastern Wisconsin. he says Milwaukee County is way behind. He adds some other local bus systems around Wisconsin will also come up short in truly modernizing their fleet.