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Milwaukee Mayor Sees Future for Century City Despite News Talgo Will Depart

S Bence

The high-speed train manufacturer has decided to pick up and leave town, and perhaps sell its two new train sets to Michigan.
The Spanish company set up shop on the Century City property in 2010. Mayor Tom Barrett shared his reaction outside Talgo’s gate.

“It looks entirely possible and probable that the residents of the state of Michigan will enjoy these high speed train runs between Detroit and Chicago, rather than having these spanking new high speed rail cars traveling between Milwaukee and Chicago. That is a tragedy,” Barrett says.

A tall industrial fence and a few weather-worn trees separated the resulting gaggle of reporters from the sleek train car protruding from what has been Talgo’s home.

Mayor Barrett said the Spanish company was expected to be the cornerstone of a beleaguered industrial corridor on the mend.

“Talgo had set up its North American headquarters right here in Milwaukee to build trains for around the country. For us, Talgo was the beginning and that rug has been pulled out from underneath us,” Barrett says.

The company seemed slated for success a few years ago.

Its workers started building two train sets for Amtrak’s Chicago to Milwaukee Hiawatha route, while Wisconsin had secured $810 million federal dollars in stimulus money to extend the high-speed link to Madison.

The mayor put blame squarely on the shoulders of the Republican-dominated Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker. They opposed the rail plan, insisting the state and federal governments could not afford it and that there was no public demand or need for it.

Most work at Talgo ceased. Talgo has filed a lawsuit against the state for ending the work it says it came here to perform.

While Barrett foresees Michigan buying the two high-speed train sets to link Detroit and Chicago, he reassures Century City neighbors that Milwaukee still sees great potential here.

“Because this year for the first time in many many years we are going to have a new building built on these grounds. At the north end of the Century City, a 50,000 square foot building will be coming out of the ground later this year. We’ve had interest from companies interested in locating there,” Barrett says.

Arrila Eversley and her husband saw the media gathered outside the Talgo gate and stopped to see what was happening.

“I thought let’s stop and see what’s going on – maybe they’re going to reopen,” Eversley says.

She grew up in the neighborhood and remembers the era when 27th Street was clogged with traffic – so many people with so many jobs. Eversley says she worries, now that Talgo has officially announced it’s leaving, yet still has hope for Milwaukee.

“But I just think people have to work together – both parties have to work together for the common good of the people – that’s what it’s all about,” Eversley says.

Eversley headed off to work – at a nearby day care center.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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