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Rail could be the only ‘high-speed’ aspect of Madison’s depot decision

By Chris Thompson

When Gov. Jim Doyle announced plans for a high-speed rail depot near Madison’s Monona Terrace, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said the project should break ground “in about a year.”

Developers who have stumbled through Madison’s maze of commissions and committees trying to get project approval must have chuckled knowingly at that timeline.

A year might be manageable if the state streamlines the process and the project avoids entanglements in such panels as the Urban Design Commission, Landmarks Commission, Plan Commission, Common Council, Committee on the Environment or the Long-Range Transportation Planning Committee.

But if Madison’s everyone-has-a-say-and-every-topic-deserves-a-public-hearing mentality for project approval holds, the high-speed rail station is teed up for at least a year’s worth of neighborhood questions, criticisms and suggested improvements. Of course, changes to the project often warrant more public hearings and informal presentations to the government panels.


The developers of the proposed Edgewater Hotel redevelopment likely could attest to that.

Yet, for now, the proposal is fresh and the city’s attitude optimistic. Cieslewicz, when Doyle announced the station proposal last Thursday, also said, “There are no red flags for me.”

That’s OK. The project critics will bring their own.

Chris Thompson is the editor at The Daily Reporter. He wants to form a “Why are there so many committees in Madison?” committee. It would meet in Madison, of course.

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