By Jan Basina
It’s not full-speed ahead for the future of high-speed rail service in Wisconsin — not since Gov. Scott Walker put the kibosh on an $810 million federal grant to develop high-speed rail in the state.
But the state won’t be completely shut out either. After all, planned high-speed passenger rail service from Chicago to Minneapolis-St. Paul still needs to travel through Wisconsin.
Many questions remain. But one will impact two western Wisconsin cities – which city will the Chicago-to-Twin Cities segment of the multistate Midwest Regional Rail Initiative pass through? La Crosse or Eau Claire.
A report by the Minnesota Department of Transportation recommends only one route through Wisconsin. One that would travel along the Amtrak line through La Crosse.
But the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition has raised concerns regarding the Minnesota study, suggesting the study might be flawed. The coalition, established in 1999 to advocate for regional passenger rail service, is promoting a route running through Eau Claire and lobbied the Federal Railroad Administration to reject the Minnesota study.
The group claimed that planned public hearings in Wisconsin were skipped and was critical of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s decision to pull out of the discussions last summer.
But the Minnesota DOT has defended its study, saying that it could not jump the border into Wisconsin to hold public meetings. MnDOT noted that efforts were made to include Wisconsin residents in discussions. Minnesota hosted a webinar and conducted meetings in cities along the Wisconsin border to make it possible for Wisconsin residents to voice their opinions.
The deadline to support either city has passed. Right now it’s all in the hands of the Federal Railroad Administration.
No one knows when some sort of resolution will be made on the MnDOT study. Some say it could take up to year – now that’s not what I would call high-speed.
Jan Basina is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter and hopes to jump a high-speed rail train from Milwaukee to … oh wait.