Where should the Madison train station go?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

An article by Jeramey Jannene in Urban Milwaukee gives a Milwaukeean's point of view:

Things look good for high-speed rail (110mph max speed) to be connecting Milwaukee and Madison courtesy of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The state has actively drafted plans for the route and conducted environmental assessments to put Wisconsin as close to first in line as possible if and when capital funding were to become available. The stimulus package provides just the perfect opportunity.

While we won’t know if Wisconsin gets the funds until the final months of the year at the earliest, the announcement that Talgo will locate in Wisconsin and that $47 million in train equipment will be purchased from Talgo seems to indicate that Governor Doyle is either extremely confident we’ll get the money, or has received a verbal promise.

Milwaukee has recently invested in an excellent, centrally-located intermodal station that will provide an excellent hub on the line. The Milwaukee Intermodal Station itself is near a number of bus transit routes, will likely be served by the coming streetcar, and is even within walking distance of numerous destinations. It also features a lot of available, low-cost parking, which encourages many to take the Amtrak Hiawatha to Chicago from further off neighborhoods and suburbs. Also important, the development potential of the site is limited only the looming presence of Interstate 794, something that eventually be overcome. . . .

What does Madison have? Well at the moment, nothing. The plan is, however, for the stop to be located at the Dane County Airport in Madison.

What does the airport provide in terms of opportunity? For starters at least a $12 cab ride to the Capitol. Sure it provides parking, but at a cost greater than the parking in an urban location in Milwaukee.

There are few to no development opportunities at the airport itself, which of course enforces building height restrictions. The proposed station site is a big parking lot shared with the airport that can never be developed, and it is constrained by a creek and other wetlands. Without connections to an urban context or a street grid, walking to the station will never happen, and taking a bus isn’t much better. The current single bus route that serves the airport requires a transfer at Madison Metro’s North Transfer Point to reach downtown.