Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk are friends again.
The two officials have been so far apart on the commuter-rail-versus-streetcars issue it was rumored that they'd stopped speaking altogether. Cieslewicz's spokesman, George Twigg, denies it, saying the two sat down "face to face" in a room to hammer out a rail proposal.
The result: A proposed regional transit authority with the ability to levy a half-cent sales tax. Funds raised from the tax would be split up countywide for bus service, road maintenance, paratransit and bike paths. But the largest single share -- 33% -- would go to commuter rail. The state Legislature must approve the regional transit authority.
"This agreement has us all committed to one comprehensive regional transportation system," said Falk, at a press conference on Wednesday announcing the deal.
The proposal means, however, that Cieslewicz must give up his streetcar idea -- at least for now. Asked several times by reporters if the deal meant streetcars were dead, Cieslewicz responded, "We're thinking about it in terms of a unified system. We don't want to think of it in terms of streetcars competing with commuter rail."
A streetcar line could be built as part of a "phase two" rail development, says Cieslewicz.
In April, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that Cieslewicz wanted the county to delay its application for federal funding for commuter rail, until streetcars could be incorporated into the mix. But at Wednesday's press conference, Cieslewicz denied this: "That's been a common misperception. We never felt a need to be part of the same application."
Cieslewicz said he is "happy and enthusiastic" to support commuter rail's application for federal funding, which is due by the end of the summer. "I'm very pleased that my long-term friend the county executive and I would come together on this."