Friday, April 03, 2009From an article by Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
On the drive from Waukesha to Madison, Roger Danielsen has often wondered why he couldn't take a train instead.
But now that the state is pushing for $519 million in federal money to build a 110-mph passenger rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, Danielsen says the planned train still wouldn't lure him out of his car.
The reason: Madison's new train station would be built at Dane County Regional Airport, on the city's east side, not downtown near Capitol Square or the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. And Danielsen, a Waukesha graphic artist who travels regularly to Madison on business, is one of a number of state residents complaining about that decision.
"If traveling to Madison, what possible reason would I want to be dropped off at the Dane County Regional Airport, miles from downtown?" Danielsen wrote in a recent e-mail to state and federal officials. "If I have to take local bus / snail transportation to get from the airport to where I wanted to be in the first place downtown, you just put me back in my car again, time-wise and convenience-wise."
Others voiced similar comments after the Journal Sentinel reported recently that Gov. Jim Doyle was seeking federal stimulus dollars to pick up the full cost of the long-planned rail route linking Wisconsin's two largest cities. If approved, the line would offer six daily round trips, starting as early as late 2012 or early 2013, with stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown.
The problem with a downtown Madison station is that this train line isn't just a Milwaukee-to-Madison route, a state official says. It's intended to become a segment of a longer route that would eventually run all the way from Chicago to the Twin Cities, as part of a Midwestern network of fast, frequent trains. And a side trip through the capital city's crowded isthmus and back again would eat up too much time for travelers continuing beyond Madison, said Randy Wade, the state Department of Transportation's passenger rail manager.
To reach downtown Madison, trains would have to slow down on their way through numerous crossings, then back up all the way to the airport to leave town, Wade said. That also would boost the cost of the route, he said. Wade did not have figures on how much time or money a downtown spur would add.
Danielsen said he would be happy with a connecting local train, like the St. Louis light rail line that connects that city's downtown to its airport. And planners have considered running a Dane County commuter train to the airport. But the current plan for that $250 million project is to run from Middleton to downtown to Sun Prairie, bypassing the airport.