From an article in The Capital Times:
A high speed rail project that includes Madison is in President Obama’s strategic plan of a “top 10” list of rail projects that have been identified to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system in America.
The president released his strategic plan for high speed rail Thursday morning — a plan that would spend $8 billion in stimulus funds and another $1 billion a year for five years as a down payment to revitalizing the country’s passenger rail system.
The 10 corridors identified in the plan include the Chicago Hub Network, which would link Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis/St. Paul, and also would have high-speed lines serving St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville.
From a new release posted on WQOW-TV, Eau Claire:
Eau Claire (News Release) – With the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in Eau Claire today to receive public comment on its “Connections 2030” long-range transportation plan, the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition is seeking changes to the plan that would include the region in WisDOT’s plans for a high speed rail network.
Members of the coalition applaud much of the philosophy of the draft Connections 2030 plan, which includes a major state policy goal to provide Wisconsin citizens with more transportation choice by improving passenger train service and other non-automobile travel options. In the draft plan, WisDOT says it “envisions a 21st century intercity passenger rail system that links the Midwest region’s major economic centers.”
Unfortunately, West Central Wisconsin is not included in that network, which would be built in three phases with routes serving Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-La Crosse-St. Paul and Milwaukee-Green Bay. The plan only promises to “consider” service to area once the entire network is completed more than a decade from now.
The Coalition points out that West Central Wisconsin – which encompasses the Chippewa Valley and St. Croix Valley areas from Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls through Menomonie and Hudson/River Falls – is one of the fastest growing population areas in the state, growth that could be stunted if the area is left out of the network.
From a letter to Governor Jim Doyle from State Senator Pat Kreitlow:
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.