Before Scott Walker decided to become a little tyrant against unions, he was one of the first Governors, along with his union-busting buddy John Kasich, to attack “Obamarail.” Walker and Kasich returned hundreds of millions in high speed rail money to the Department of Transportation, charging that it was too costly and wouldn’t attract ridership. It was clear then that this was an ideological and not an economic conclusion. Just days after Walker returned the money, a business making rail cars in Wisconsin decided to close up their factory.

Now, months after that debacle, it turns out Walker wants some rail money after all.

Several months after rejecting federal funds to build high-speed rail across Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is now asking for at least $150 million to add trains for an existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago line.

Walker said Tuesday the federal funds would be used to buy two train sets and eight locomotives as well as build a maintenance facility in Milwaukee.

The announcement came after the Republican governor, upholding a campaign promise, turned down $810 million to build a Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed line. Walker had criticized the rail line as a waste of taxpayer money.

He said upgrading this line, however, will save the state money through lower operating expenses, fewer capital costs and more ticket revenue while helping to accommodate growth in the rail line.

“That’s good for business, that’s good for business travelers and it’s yet one more incentive to do business here in southeastern Wisconsin,” he said.

Amazingly, rail infrastructure attracts business support! You wouldn’t have known that way back when… four months ago.

But it gets worse. Walker is justifying this by saying that the Hiawatha line, which he wants the money to go toward, has proven demand. It turns out that not only did the high speed rail line he rejected have the exact same stops as the Hiawatha line, but that HSR money he rejected would have gone toward the same purpose:

Inconsistency, the governor’s office insisted, this surely was not. The $150 million in funds Walker was now requesting were for improvements to the Hiawatha line — between Milwaukee and Chicago – which, the governor stressed, was more popular and profitable. The previous batch of money was for a line between Madison and Milwaukee, which, because it was new, would have had cost overruns and required additional state obligations.

A Department of Transportation source, however, says that while the majority of the $800-million-plus in funds set aside for Wisconsin was for the Madison-Milwaukee rail, a small but not insignificant chunk was for improvements to the Hiawatha line.

“They received $12 million to upgrade and lay new track on the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago,” the DOT official said.

A call to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation was not immediately returned.

Bringing this lunacy full circle, the money Walker is bidding for is the extra $2.4 billion in high speed rail funds… rejected by Florida governor Rick Scott. Illinois, Michigan and Missouri are in on the application.

Maybe if the Transportation Department rejects the application, Walker will act as if they passed it and start implementing the construction.

David Dayen

David Dayen