The recently awarded grants are funded by taxes on railroads and are appropriately given to state railroads to help them compete with other forms of subsidized transportation. Citizens should be concerned about the almost $2 million awarded to Sharratt Warehousing and Distribution to help build a $14 million temperature-controlled warehouse in Reedsburg.
Currently, the railroad serving that community is Union Pacific. Walker wants to purchase that track (Reedsburg to Madison), give it to BFF WSOR, pay them to upgrade the line to higher operating standards, and then allow Koch asset WATCO to the monies operating trains on the Reedsburg-Madison Line.
The grant to Sharratt is actually going to be a windfall for the Koch brother's WATCO which mislead the federal Surface Transportation Board to approve of the purchase of WSOR by withholding critical information about the sale.
Those following VOICES this year know that the ongoing investigation into the criminality that helped propel Walker into the Governor's mansion and the national spotlight was first made public when WSOR president and CEO was charged and convicted of 2 felonies related to coercing employees to donate to Scott Walker's campaign and then paying them back from the railroad's revenue.
Garner, now a convicted felon on probation, then promptly sold most of his stake in the railroad to WATCO Transportation -- a holding company that is directly or indirectly tied to the Koch brothers.
It is curious that a Reedsburg location would be a "top priority" for a rail grant. Union Pacific's tracks are in bad shape and operate under a 10 mph restricted track speed. Union Pacific has shown no interest in upgrading that line. Union Pacific is one of the largest railroads in America.
The sale of WSOR to WATCO was rushed through the federal approval process at the Surface Transportation Board. Because of certain representations Gardner & WATCO made about the sale, approval was fast-tracked over the 2011 holiday season.
The statements made to justify quick approval with virtually no public input are questionable -- STB's decision to approve clearly state that approval is null-and-void if it is shown that information provided to them was incomplete. That is clearly the case -- STB was not informed that Gardner was a convicted felon now profiting from his crimes and sale of this highly-subsidized railroad which operates on leased state-owned tracks is illegal because Bill Gardner violated his rental agreement by using operating revenues to illegally fund Scott Walker's campaign.
It is not in the best-interest of Wisconsin taxpayers to continue to subsidize Scott Walker's pay-for-play and allow him to pay the Koch brothers back for the massive amounts of money they "invested" in Scott Walker and he recent recall election.
The only reason for Walker to subsidize a warehouse with railroad grant money in a community that does not have adequate rail service is that he will raid the state treasury soon to subsidize the Koch brother's railroad interests.
This writer has already talked to the Surface Transportation Board. The sale of UP trackage to the State of Wisconsin (to turn over to WSOR) will have to be approved. Since a Class 1 railroad is involved, this approval will not be fast-tracked. At that time, a petition will be filed to:
- Block any sale of trackage to WATCO -- the sale of WSOR to WATCO was illegal and approval was based on material misrepresentations by WSOR/Gardner and WATCO
- Overturn approval of the WATCO purchase of WSOR
- Kathleen Chung, Attorney. Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Office of General Counsel, 4802 Sheboygan Avenue, Room II5B/P.O. Box 7910, Madison, Wl 53707-7910. Phone: (608) 266-8752; email: email@example.com
- Cynthia Brown, Chief; Section of Administration. Office of Proceedings, Surface Transportation Board can be reached at: 395 E Street S.W. Washington. DC 20024. Her phone number and email address is: (202) 245-0384; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Andrea Pope-Matheson, Paralegal Specialist (Brown’s assistant) Surface Transportation Board, Office of Proceedings (address above). Phone: (202) 245-0363; email: Andrea.Pope-Matheson@stb.dot.gov
- Gabriel S. Meyer, Attorney-Advisor , Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs & Compliance; Rail Customer & Public Assistance Program, (address above). 1-866-254-1792 or (202) 245-0150. Email:Gabriel.Meyer@stb.dot.gov
- Brett Husley, 77th Assembly District. Room 3 North, State Capitol, P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708. Phone: (608) 266-7521; email: Rep.Hulsey@legis.wi.gov
- Amy Sue Vruwin, 70th Assembly District. Room 112 North, State Capitol P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708. Phone: (608) 266-8366 Or (888) 534-0070; email: Rep.Vruwink@legis.wisconsin.gov
- Senator Fred Risser 26th Senate District. Room 130 South, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882. Phone: (608) 266-1627; email: Sen.Risser@legis.wisconsin.gov
- US Senator Tammy Balwin. DC Office: 2446 Rayburn HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515. Phone: (202) 225-2906; Madison Office: 10 East Doty St., Suite 405, Madison, WI 53703; Phone: (608) 258-9800
UPDATE II. Per Wisconsin Railroad Commioner Jeff Pale, (phone conversation 9/20/2012, 3 pm) William Gardner has actually sold all interests in WSOR to WATCO and is now no longer involved with the Railroad -- it is now 100 percent owned by WATCO Transportation.
The closing of arterial streets in Madison, which state Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale identified as Patterson and Few Streets, is now being ordered because WSOR anticipates increasing the speed limit from 10 mph (Pale was vague about speed, identifing some brackets -- evidently, up to 25 miles per hour).
Strangely, when talking about the need for these closings, Pale stated that the proposals initially were brought forward in 2009 when high-speed trains were being planned for the line. He indicated that this still was one factor in his decision to close these streets -- evidently he see's high-speed rail in Wisconsin's future though he did admit that it would not happen for a while.
When asked about the ownership issues raised in this blog post, he deferred comment, stating anything to do with ownership fell outside of the Commissioner's office which is essentially only concerned with safety issues.
Despite the fact that there have been no accidents in this area for more than 50 years and that the bike traffic here moves much faster than the trains, he maintains these crossings are relatively dangerous and sides with WATCO/WSOR that, per safety reasons, these streets should be closed.
Pale states that Union Pacific wants to sell that line and that he expects this purchase to be in the next budget. He also stated (as our commentator Dave points out, that future increases in traffic will come from increased sand mining -- currently, that traffic is largely not routed through this corridor, but he indicated that would likely change when WSOR acquires the Reedsburg-Madison line from Union Pacific.