Brookfield - Mayor Steve Ponto said Monday he is delaying action on a proposed Brookfield high-speed rail station until after the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election.
The Common Council tentatively had been scheduled to consider the station at its Oct. 5 meeting. But Ponto said he is postponing action because he does not expect state officials to have their final proposal, including costs, ready by the meeting.
Ponto said it makes no sense for the council to consider whether to endorse the station project without knowing its costs and without knowing who will be governor next year.
The high-speed Milwaukee-to-Madison rail line is a controversial issue in the gubernatorial race, with Democratic candidate Tom Barrett supporting the line and Republican Scott Walker opposing it.
Ponto said he made the decision after meeting Thursday with state administration Secretary Dan Schoof and Department of Transportation High Speed Passenger Rail Program Chief John Oimoen. Also at the meeting were the city's finance director, Robert Scott, its community development director, Dan Ertl, and Common Council President Mark Nelson.
"With the election date this close and the stark differences between the gubernatorial candidates on the issue of high speed rail, I believe the Council should know the outcome of the November 2nd election prior to deliberating on this matter," Ponto said in a memo he sent Friday to aldermen. "I am also mindful that the State policy makers will change in January based on the election."
Ponto, elected mayor in April, is opposed to spending local tax dollars for construction of the station, platforms and parking.
The mayor also is concerned about the station because the DOT has said several times that Brookfield - not the state - would own and operate the station. Costs of operating and maintaining the station would range between $30,000 and $100,000 annually, Ponto said in a Sept. 17 letter to alderman.
Brookfield would get revenue generated by the station parking lot and from advertising in the station, Ponto says, but it is unlikely that the revenue would cover the full costs of operating the station.
Cari Anne Renlund, executive assistant to state Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi, said Monday that there is no firm date yet on when cost estimates will be ready on the Brookfield station.
She noted that the state had a good relationship with Ponto and the city's staff and that state officials want to make sure Brookfield has "all the information they need from us."
Renlund said the state was zeroing in on what costs are really necessary and trying to cover much of those with federal stimulus money awarded for the rail project.
She said the state also plans to provide Brookfield with estimates related to operating the station and on potential revenue from parking and advertising.
It's the second time council consideration on the Brookfield station has been delayed because the state had not finalized cost estimates. The council had been scheduled to consider the station on Sept. 21, but the state requested a delay to revise its cost estimates.
Initial estimates for the Brookfield station ranged from $17.9 million to $30 million, Ponto stated in an earlier memo to aldermen. But after the state allocated $5 million for that station, from the $810 million in federal stimulus money awarded for the rail project, new estimates were prepared. Ponto said the lowest estimate was $12.9 million, with the state share rising to $7 million, leaving Brookfield taxpayers to cover $5.9 million.
Those estimates have since changed, according to Ponto and the state.
The rail line is to operate as an extension of Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha route and eventually could be extended to the Twin Cities. It is to start service with six round trips at a top speed of 79 mph in 2013, increasing to 110 mph by the end of 2015.
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