The current draft of a Wisconsin plan for high-speed intercity rail connects many of our state’s population and economic centers. But unfortunately the Connections 2030 plan fails to include a route through the Interstate 94 corridor, an omission that in my opinion leaves the entire system incomplete and less efficient than it should be. I am encouraging people throughout western Wisconsin and the East Metro area of the Twin Cities to provide comments to the Department of Transportation supporting the inclusion of a route that includes Eau Claire, Menomonie and Hudson, and I hope to have your support for an Eau Claire route as well.
Some of the fastest growing counties in the state are in western Wisconsin, according to the Department of Administration’s recently released report on projected populations through 2035. Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pierce and Polk counties are all expected to see over 30% population growth by 2035, putting them in the top quarter of counties, while St. Croix County is projected to see a population increase of 135% during that time, making it the fastest growing county in the state. Widening Interstate 94 alone will not provide sufficient ways to link this rapidly growing economy to Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago. A rail line would displace many more auto trips compared to the Tomah-La Crosse corridor. Even your Task Force on Global Warming makes a specific recommendation to implement high speed rail “to Eau Claire and the Twin Cities” as a means toward reduction in transportation greenhouse gases.