It could take 18 months to complete a study of possible high-speed passenger rail routes to connect Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul, but a preferred route could be indicated by the end of 2011.
Dan Krom, passenger rail director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said he had hoped a preferred route would be indicated by spring 2011, but Federal Railroad Administration officials want more time to review and comment on the work being done.
Krom and Charles Quandel, CEO of Quandel Consultants LLC in Chicago, fielded most of the questions and comments at a public meeting Tuesday night that drew nearly 200 people to the Best Western Riverfront Hotel in La Crosse.
It was the second in a series of public meetings in Minnesota and Wisconsin on the study.
Most of the comments Tuesday were in the form of questions, but some people spoke about the advantages of high-speed rail service while others appeared skeptical due to concerns about costs.
Some questioned what might happen to the study in view of Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s pledge to reject federal stimulus money for a line between Milwaukee and Madison. The
federal government in February contributed $600,000 for the study, with Minnesota and Wisconsin each contributing $300,000. The federal grant is being administered by the Minnesota DOT.
Minnesota is committed to moving forward, Krom said, and made the Chicago connection the top priority in its recently completed state rail plan.