Just how close is Dane County to getting commuter rail?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski in The Capital Times:

Transport 2020 project manager David Trowbridge needs the fingers on both hands to count all of the mass transit and rail studies completed in Dane County in the past 30 years. Like clockwork, a study seemed to crop up every few years, with paperwork accelerating in the late 1990s as Trowbridge's work on the Transport 2020 project began.

On June 29, however, the Madison area saw arguably the biggest single step toward getting a regional transit system when Gov. Jim Doyle signed a state budget that included approval for Dane County to form a regional transit authority (RTA). It would have taxing authority within federally set boundaries, and discussion so far has centered around the idea of the RTA enacting a half-cent sales tax that would raise some $38 million annually. The commuter rail line is separate from a potential high-speed rail line connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and the Twin Cities that is currently part of a multi-state application for federal stimulus funds.

But while Dane County leaders say there are still many details to figure out about what an RTA would fund before putting a referendum before area voters, critics say that the RTA has always been about trains and that they will be gearing up opposition accordingly.

One of the chief critics of an RTA has been Dane County Board Supervisor Eileen Bruskewitz, who represents the Waunakee area. She says transportation discussions have focused much too heavily on a commuter rail line running from Middleton through Madison to the town of Burke, which has an estimated price tag of $250 million, plus $10 million in annual operating costs.