20 MW solar energy farm proposed in Jefferson

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From an article by Ryan Whisner in the Jefferson Daily Union:

JEFFERSON - A proposal to build the second-largest solar-generation farm in the United States was presented to City of Jefferson officials Wednesday night.

Green States Energy Inc. of Deerfield Beach, Fla., unveiled plans to build a solar energy farm on 100 acres of the city's north industrial park that would generate approximately 20 megawatts of electricity.

Jefferson Sun One would have approximately 100,000 individual solar panel modules on the 100-acre parcel. The site - just north of the former Brigg & Stratton plant - would generate approximately 3.5 million kilowatt hours per year, equivalent to generating sufficient electricity for about 3,500 homes. An interconnectivity agreement with Jefferson Utilities and WPPI is intended.

"This is a big deal if it can be brought to fruition and can be built," said David Jenkins of the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence.

Currently, he noted, Wisconsin has approximately 6.5 megawatts of installed solar capacity. Only two cities in the state are labeled by the U.S. Department of Energy as solar cities.

"Overnight, if this project were built, the City of Jefferson would have three times as much solar energy as there is in the entire state," Jenkins said. "As far as I'm concerned, if you had 20 megawatts of power here, you would be a solar city."

Approximately five to six weeks ago, Jefferson city officials were approached by representatives from Green States Energy about locating the solar energy farm in Jefferson. Green States representatives presented its proposal Wednesday to a joint session of the Jefferson Common Council, Jefferson Plan Commission and Jefferson Redevelopment Authority.

"It is an opportunity for us to not only provide a lot of good jobs in the construction phase and also the operational stage, but it is also an opportunity for the City of Jefferson to create an identity of being a nationwide leader in renewable energy," Mayor Dale Oppermann said. "We have the task, the challenge and the opportunity to reinvent the economy of Jefferson and the surrounding area."

He said Green States Inc. is offering the city the chance to get involved with state-of-the-art technology and create an identity for the city as being clean and green.

Green States Energy Inc. chief executive officer Jeffrey Lord described the company as a group of people who have come together under a common principle.

"The planet and the people on it will be better off if we can start using less fossil fuels to get the energy we need," Lord said, citing the company's mission.

UW-Madison considers bus pass fees to close transportation budget deficit

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

From an article by Deborah Ziff in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Possible changes to UW-Madison's parking and transportation services — including a proposal to charge UW-Madison's 20,000 employees to ride the bus — could have far-reaching consequences for the campus and city.

About one year into the job, UW-Madison transportation director Patrick Kass announced this spring that he needs to make drastic changes or else raise parking rates considerably in order to cover an annual budget deficit of roughly $1 million.

One proposal is to begin charging UW-Madison employees between $50 and $150 per year for city bus passes, which have been free for the past seven years. That's because the university, which spends about $1.5 million per year on employee bus fare, is facing an expected 21 percent cost increase from Metro Transit.

Even with the new fee, taking the bus would still be less expensive than parking on campus. But some worry that charging for bus passes will remove the incentive to ride the bus, considered more environmentally friendly than driving.

"I think it's one of the nicer perks," said Mike Olson, who either takes the bus, bikes or drives to campus from his home on the East Side. "If I don't have to pay, it's encouraging me to take the bus...If I had to pay for the bus, maybe more often than not, I wouldn't take it."

It could also have serious implications for Metro Transit. Employees and students at UW-Madison and its affiliates make up roughly 50 percent of the city's bus ridership. If UW-Madison employees must begin paying, the city bus system could lose customers.

New buildings bring debt increase
The building boom on campus is partly to blame for the transportation department's predicament. As the university puts new buildings on surface parking lots, the transportation department must build expensive parking ramps in order to maintain its 13,000 parking spaces on campus, Kass said.

Full Spectrum Solar sees sunny future on East Wash

Monday, June 28, 2010

Burke O'Neal stands in front of a solar systems installed by Full Spectrum Solar on the roof of the Williamson Street Coop.

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

Talk about a perfect fit for Madison.

A locally owned and fast-growing solar energy company moves into a vacant building that formerly housed an auto body repair shop.

The company — Full Spectrum Solar — is even being welcomed with open arms by the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association, a group known for taking a tough look at any new development.

“They came in to talk with us about a month ago and a lot of people are very happy to see a 21st century, green business coming into the neighborhood,” says Pat McDonnell, past president of the neighborhood association.

If all goes according to plan, Full Spectrum Solar this October will move its operations from the Madison Enterprise Center small business incubator at 100 S. Baldwin St. into new digs at 1240 E. Washington Ave., the former Quality Collision.

Full Spectrum Solar isn’t just replacing a 20th century auto painting operation. It’s buying one of those underutilized properties along East Washington Avenue the city of Madison has been looking to upgrade.

“We’re pretty excited about having our own building,” says Burke O’Neal, 38, who founded the company in 2002 with his younger brother, Mark. “If nothing else, we’ll have a place to park our vehicles.”

Dane County moves ahead on manure digester in Vienna

Friday, June 25, 2010

Two digesters - hi res
A Clear Horizons built electricity-generating anaerobic manure digesters drew attention from visitors to the 2009Farm Technology Days at the Crave Brothers Farm near Waterloo last summer.

From an article by Devin Rose in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Dane County’s first community manure digester, with the potential to generate electricity and reduce lake pollution, was approved Thursday by the County Board.

The $12 million digester will use bacteria to turn cow manure supplied by three town of Vienna farms into methane gas, fiber and a liquid fertilizer. The methane is burned and expected to generate $2 million worth of electricity every year, and the fiber can be used as cow bedding.

Algae-producing phosphorus is the biggest cause of pollution in the Yahara Lakes watershed, said Josh Wescott, spokesman for County Executive Kathleen Falk, in a release. The digester will use advanced separation technology to remove up to 70 percent of the phosphorus from the manure. It will also reduce odor problems and lessen the need to spread manure on distant fields, which generates environmental problems, Wescott said.

Milwaukee-based Clear Horizons will own, operate, and partially finance the digester. The County Board also approved issuing $6 million in bonds through a federal stimulus program, and the state will contribute another $3.3 million toward the project. The state also included $6.6 million in its last budget for this and another digester planned near Middleton. Wescott said he and other officials are still working with farmers there.

County picks firm to study building food-waste digester facility

Thursday, June 24, 2010

From a news release issued by Dane County:

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today announced that the County has selected AECOM, a global engineering company, to examine the viability of turning thousands of tons of food waste each year into millions of dollars of green-generated electricity.

Falk said the first phase of AECOM’s feasibility study will be completed this fall. It will explore both the financial benefits to taxpayers and the renewable energy potential of food waste from commercial, industrial and institutional sources for a possible digester to be located at the
County’s Rodefeld landfill. This would be the first food digester in the state of Wisconsin and one of only a handful in the entire country.

“Food waste recycling is a new ‘green industry’ that offers tremendous financial and environmental benefits,” said Falk. “Converting locally-produced food waste into everyday, necessary products such as energy and soil fertilizer is an innovative trash to cash solution with benefits for taxpayers.”

Food waste recycling is becoming a national trend especially being explored by those businesses that generate food waste. Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, announced it is planning to roll out a 50-state food waste recycling program for its stores sometime later this

The County’s landfill currently earns taxpayers $3-million a year by turning methane from naturally decomposing landfill trash into green electricity sold to Madison Gas & Electric Company. The landfill receives approximately 200,000 tons of material every year of which 30,000 tons is food waste. Diverting food waste to a digester will significantly extend the life of the current landfill and produce greater amounts of green energy.

Trains can ease our oil addiction

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

From a column by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

Are we in denial?

While the Gulf of Mexico is being despoiled by millions of gallons of oil, threatening fish, birds and the livelihood of thousands of U.S. citizens for decades to come, a significant percentage of Americans can’t bring themselves to admit this catastrophe is directly related to our insatiable need for oil to feed our addiction to the automobile.

That addiction and our tepid efforts to find alternatives to carbon-fueled energy have led us to take incredible chances with the environment. One misstep, as we now know, can cause misery for tens of thousands of people and devastation to our one and only planet.

Despite the obviously dreadful consequences, we continue to subsidize the oil industry, which has for decades held sway over our politicians. Along with that, we provide more and more incentives for Americans to keep driving their gasoline-powered cars on ever wider and longer concrete highways.

It’s as if we can’t understand that someday the world will run out of oil, even as we go drilling into deeper and deeper seas and resort to opening up some of our most fragile natural preserves to keep the pumps running. “Drill, baby, drill” is still the mantra among all too many who at the same time oppose spending money to promote the development of alternative fuel sources.

Here in Wisconsin, for example, the state Legislature this session couldn’t bring itself to pass bills to establish a state energy policy that, among other incentives, would have provided aid to companies working on renewable energy projects.

Closer to home, a vocal group is hell-bent on scuttling the expansion of rail transportation to Madison, insisting trains are relics of the past — ‘so 19th century,’ as one of its leaders puts it — and that, in the 21st century, Americans want to use their cars and will continue to do so. So they bellow to anyone who will listen: Let’s stop the train.

Lost in their rhetoric is the simple fact that train travel saves thousands of gallons of gasoline. To move a passenger a mile, it’s estimated that a train takes 21 percent less fuel than a car and 17 percent less fuel than a plane.

Group says high-speed rail will add 9,000 jobs in Wisconsin

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From an article by Ilissa Gilmore in the Sheboygan Press:

ASHWAUBENON — An advocacy group said Wednesday that the high-speed rail system that will connect several Midwest cities will benefit the environment and provide more than 9,000 jobs in Wisconsin.

Members of the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group student chapters came to the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon to promote the $823 million project that will connect Green Bay, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, among other cities.

WISPIRG — which works on economic, environmental, and social concerns — is conducting its second annual tour for the system. The group also has visited Eau Claire, La Crosse and Madison and will hit Oshkosh, Milwaukee and Racine.

States need to invest in railways instead of more roads and highways, said WISPIRG student leader Sarah Seibold.

"The Midwest is behind the East Coast and Europe and Asia in railway travel," said Patricia Terry, a science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. "Rails are needed to maintain our economic competitiveness."

An expanded rail system in Wisconsin would produce 9,000 new, permanent jobs, and it would reduce dependency on oil because railroads are 23 percent more fuel efficient than airplanes and 40 percent more efficient than single-passenger cars, Seibold said.

The rail system will use diesel gas before eventually moving to electricity, she said, but it would still be more efficient than standard modes of transportation. With oil dependency and gas prices on the rise, rail travel is a favorable alternative, Terry said.

Monday, June 21, 2010

From an article by Clay Barbour and Mary Spicuzza in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Dangerous cracks discovered on a Milwaukee County bridge earlier this year have become battle lines in the governor's race as the candidates push competing visions of Wisconsin's transportation future. . . .

On one side is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate. Barrett favors a two-pronged approach that includes improving roads and incorporating passenger rail into the mix.

On the other side are the two leading Republicans: Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann. Both favor a concrete-and-asphalt approach focused on roads. And both promise to halt the construction of the federally funded passenger rail program from Madison to Milwaukee — despite the fact that the state may have spent as much as $100 million on the project by that time.

Visit RENEW at the Energy Fair, June 18-20

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Visit RENEW in booth C2 at the 21st Annual Energy Fair June 18-20, 2010.

Each year the MREA Energy Fair transforms rural Central Wisconsin into the global hot spot for renewable energy education. The Energy Fair brings over 20,000 people from nearly every state in the U.S. and several countries around the world to learn, connect with others and ready them for action at home. The Energy Fair is the nation's longest running energy education event of its kind.

Advance Energy Fair tickets and Reservations for Back 40 Camping will be available starting April 1st.

The Energy Fair features:

•Over 275 exhibitors - sustainable living and energy products
•Over 200 workshops - from introductory level to hands-on education
•Clean Energy Car Show - demonstration vehicles and workshops
•Green Home Pavilion – focused on building and remodeling in a sustainable way
•Sustainable Tables – workshops, chef demos, and a farmers market bringing sustainability to your dinner table
•Inspirational keynotes, lively entertainment, great food, and local beer.
The Energy Fair is held in Custer, WI just seven miles east of Stevens Point. Join us for the 21st Annual Energy Fair June 18-20, 2010. For more information about the Fair, contact the Midwest Renewable Energy Association at 715-592-6595 or visit the website: www.the-mrea.org.

Volunteers needed for willow biomass planting on Monday, June 21, at 1 pm

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Local Homebuilder, State Leaders, UW Scientists, Environmentalist Restore Prairie and Plant Willows for Charter Street Biomass Plant. For Cleaner Lakes, Less Flooding, Better Habitat, Produce Food and Fuel.

What: Veridian Homes is joining with state leaders, UW scientists, Extension experts, and environmentalists to restore 16 acres of wetland and native prairie just south of Waunakee and plant 3000 willows to fuel the Charter Street Biomass Plant. Volunteers are needed for the willow planting.

The Veridian Clean Lakes, Clean Energy Project will create a 105’ prairie buffer to clean up our lakes, reduce floods, crop losses, grow cattle feed and biomass, and reduce greenhouse air pollution.

Who: volunteers, DNR, DATCP, state and local leaders, Veridian Homes’ Don Esposito, UW and Extension scientists and leaders, environmental leaders and consultant Brett Hulsey, Pastor Leonard Allen

When: Monday, June 21, 2010, 1 pm.

Where: Christian Life Assembly parking lot, 5744 County Road-Q, just south of Waunakee High School. http://local.yahoo.com/info-16790606-christian-life-assembly-of-god-church-waunakee?viewtype=map.

We will be planting 3000 fast growing willow trees for study and biomass, so wear appropriate work clothing and bring boots and gloves. Prepare to get muddy.

For more information on the project, call Brett Hulsey at Better Environmental Solutions, 608-238-6070 or email Brett@BetterEnviro.Com. Veridian Homes is a Green Tier homebuilder pursuing higher environmental performance. Better Environmental Solutions is dedicated to practical solutions that save lives, jobs and money.

Steffenson, active peak oil member, honored for work at UW-Green Bay

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

At a recent Earth Day 2010 dinner in Green Bay, WI, where he gave a lecture observing the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and in recognition of his 15 years of service, 1971-1986, as Campus Minister and Community Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay (UWGB), it was announced that the UWGB Ecumenical Center has established “The Rev. Dr. Dave Steffenson” endowed annual scholarship in Environmental Policy and Ethics for UWGB students studying in those areas. He recently retired as director of the WI Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign that he helped establish in 1999, and conducts environmental ethics programs and advocacy through his own consulting program, The Upstream Institute for Ecological Ethics in Madison, WI.

Greyhound still without home, still with problems

Monday, June 14, 2010

From an article by George Hesselberg in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Months after its depot was razed, Greyhound buses make eight trips daily to or from a curb outside Metro Transit's North Transfer Point off Aberg Avenue but passengers anecdotally still report problems with the service in Madison.

That stop, one of four the national bus company has had since August when the Badger Bus Depot Downtown closed, has no sign, no place to buy tickets or place luggage and no place for riders to sit and wait.

The city's bus service, Metro Transit, is working on Greyhound's behalf to sell tickets at the nearby Dane County Job Center, 1819 Aberg Ave., said Mario Mendoza, assistant to Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Right now, passengers can board the bus at the 1213 Huxley St. stop but must surrender their driver's license or ID to the driver until they arrive at a stop where tickets are sold.

Mendoza said the city is also considering Greyhound in its short term and long term transportation plans for the city, including in railroad-bus station or "intermodal" plans. Greyhound has confirmed it is eager to be a part of any "intermodal" transport station in the city.

Public input sought on passenger rail station

Friday, June 11, 2010

From a short article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is hosting the first public workshops on the Downtown passenger rail station on June 22 and 23.

The June 22 meeting is being held at Madison East High School, 2222 E. Washington Ave., and the June 23 meeting is being held Downtown at the state Department of Administration building, 101 E. Wilson St. Both meetings are scheduled from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The workshops are intended to solicit feedback from the public on what they think is important in a station location, Department of Transportation Executive Assistant Chris Klein said

Gull dripping in oil is a call for end of abusive relationship

Thursday, June 10, 2010

From a column by Margaret Krome in The Capital Times:

A lot of writers are talking about our addiction to oil and saying the obvious -- that it's time to stop it. But the very nature of addictions is that they don't change easily. I once asked my friend Susan to explain to me how, despite her intentions to not smoke, she could walk by a convenience store and ask me to wait while she went in to buy cigarettes. What happened in her brain to silence her intention to stop the habit and instead empower her amble into the store? Basically, she said, the overwhelming imperative to satisfy the addiction screamed louder than her judgment.

Another way to think about our relationship with petroleum is as an abusive relationship. I know from such a relationship with a person 30 years ago that people don't leave abusive partners easily. We see the best, not the worst, in our partners, and we fear the loss of attachment more than the emotional manipulations of the present. We get sentimental about the unique culture of our relationships.

Our nation's relationship to oil, especially to automobile transportation, is like that. We love the sense of freedom from cars more than the dangers of road travel. We love the power, and increasingly in a world built around cars, we love the convenience more than we dislike the cost of gas. When our daughter got her driver's license two weeks ago, I was even reminded of how learning to drive is a token of maturation.

In the meantime, we've ignored the deep dysfunction of our relationship -- communities split by interstate highways, auto casualties, air pollution and environmental damage from oil drilling and from processing oil sands and oil shale. Many of us have ignored the relationship between our dependence on oil from unstable countries and our nation's military operations.

Senate candidate Johnson: Glad there's global warming

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In an interview on WTAQ radio, Green Bay, U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson, who's challenging Senator Russ Feingold said, "I'm glad there's global warming."

Johnson makes the comment about three-quarters of the way through the interview.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin reports on Johnson's positions on energy and climate change.

Pedal power shines in Madison

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hans Noeldner (front left), Beth Campbell (partially hidden), and Michael Vickerman talked about peak oil and renewable energy with riders who stopped at the table of the Madison Peak Oil Group.

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Ride on, Madison, ride on.

In what seems destined to become a summertime favorite, the second Ride the Drive event along John Nolen Drive on Sunday was a smashing success.

People on bicycles of all sizes and shapes - and people of all sizes and shapes, for that matter - enjoyed a leisurely day on what normally is a fast-paced freeway-like environment on some of Madison's most busy streets.

For this one day, relative calm and quiet prevailed in the heart of Madison instead of the usual rush-rush, get-me-there-fast environment that can typify the Downtown streets.

Organizers estimated 30,000 riders were on John Nolen and nearby streets for the free event. That's cool. And better yet, Ride the Drive didn't cost city taxpayers a dime. The $40,000 in expenses were all covered by private donations and sponsorships.

Trek Bicycle, an internationally-known company based in Waterloo, about 30 miles northeast of Madison, carried much of the financial burden. The company also provided employees to work with the city parks staff in organizing and carrying out the event.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said many participants, especially families, sought out Ride the Drive as a one-day respite from trying times and tight budgets.

"It was really nice, especially for young families," he said. "We saw so many kids out there. It was a great way for families to enjoy a couple hours together in the city, and it was free for them. It just fit the bill for a lot of people."

Madison’s first hybrid taxi to begin service

Monday, June 07, 2010

From a news release issued by Union Cab:

(Madison, WI) Union Cab of Madison Cooperative will begin using a Toyota
Prius in its fleet on June 1, 2010. The vehicle passed inspection by the City’s Department of Transportation on May 27th.

General Manager Karl Schulte notes that this move “reflects the cooperative’s core values to operate in an environmentally responsible way.” The cooperative expects to add more hybrid vehicles in an attempt to be good environmental stewards and reduce the cost of gasoline to
the cooperative. Schulte noted that this purchase also helps Union Cab’s commitment to their carbon emission reduction goals as a participant of the Mpower Business ChaMpions Program.

Kristen Joiner, Executive Director of Sustain Dane, the organization coordinating Mpower, said, “Being a ChaMpion is about incorporating sustainability into your strategic plan. We congratulate Union Cab for taking a leadership role by being the first cab company in Dane County to introduce hybrids into their fleet.”

Union Cab will provide a ceremonial “first trip” in the new Prius taxi to Kristen Joiner and Mpower Coordinator Jessie Lerner of Sustain Dane on June 1st to meet Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz at the City County Building on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

DOE program recognizes Vickerman for wind advocacy

Friday, June 04, 2010

June 4, 2010

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

Wind Energy Advocacy Award Presented to RENEW Wisconsin Director

RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director Michael Vickerman was presented with an award by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America program. Vickerman received the Midwest Regional Wind Advocacy Award at the program’s annual state summit following the WINDPOWER 2010 Conference & Exhibition in Dallas, Texas. At this event, Wind Powering America recognized wind energy advocates in three regions across the country: East, West and Midwest.

The award cites Vickerman’s “vision and creative leadership in RENEW and his leadership of the Wisconsin Wind Working Group.” Under the auspices of Wind Powering America, RENEW Wisconsin has been facilitating the Wisconsin Wind Working Group since 2007.

“Recognition by one’s peers is a tremendous honor,” Vickerman said, “and it’s especially sweet coming from a national program that serves wind energy advocacy and education networks in 38 states.

“I am particularly pleased that the award specifically recognizes RENEW Wisconsin, which has been the state’s leading voice for strong renewable energy policies since 1991,” Vickerman said. “Wisconsin is a regional leader in many aspects involving renewable energy, and RENEW Wisconsin has been instrumental in making that happen.”

Wind Powering America is a national initiative to dramatically increase the use of wind energy in the United States. Through various partnerships and programs, it aspires to enhance power generation options as well as protect the local environment and increase our energy and national security.

“We in Wisconsin are indebted to Wind Powering America for providing us with the tools to put wind energy development in our state on a sustainable growth trajectory,” Vickerman said.


RENEW Wisconsin (www.renewwisconsin.org) is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives.

Plan a multi-modal transportation center

Thursday, June 03, 2010

From David Knuti, an active member of the Madison Peak Oil Group:

TO: Metropolitan Planning Organization

Subject: Comment on Item 5: Bus Facility Planning Needed in TIP Madison-Milwaukee Intercity Rail Project.

I wish to speak from the perspective of those concerned with Metro regional bus and intercity bus service which are not reflected in the motion before the commission. We urge that rail station planning be truly multi-modal and ultimately open-ended about final locations to ensure that the result will lead to comprehensive transit facilities.

High speed rail is great, but it is only the first of several advanced transportation facilities needed for the region. We must avoid limited-focus planning that does not consider the implication for all the elements of a transportation-efficient future. Madison is fortunate to have a downtown rail station alternative, but we are concerned that planning attention and funds be allocated to simultaneously consider the integration with regional and intercity transit. Our current intercity bus system has been allowed to degenerate to a dysfunctional mess which is contemptuous of the comfort and safety of passengers and is ill-suited to expand future bus service. It is important to not to indefinitely delay progress on these service issues.

A Monona Terrace station site would a wonderful gateway for the city, but its confined space may prove impossible to accommodate multimodal terminal facilities for regional Metro bus, intercity bus and commuter rail. And its cost might preclude further transportation facility investments for some time. It may be that a separate multimodal facility for the broader transit system is needed. Perhaps this should be still further west in "old station-- Kohl Center " area, which is most accessible to the mass ridership of the UW campus and sports events and offers access to both sides of the city. Therefore, it is important not to become financially trapped in a downtown site that proves too expensive to leave any thing left to accommodate these other transportation needs.

David Knuti
Madison, WI

Rail station triggers support, concerns from near east neighborhood group

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A letter from the Marquette Neighborhood Association:

June 1, 2010

The Honorable Jim Doyle, Governor, State of Wisconsin
The Honorable Dave Cieslewicz, Mayor, City of Madison
Secretary Frank Busalacchi, WI Department of Transportation

Dear Sirs,

The Marquette Neighborhood Association is pleased that a location for Madison’s high speed rail station has been chosen in the city center at Monona Terrace. Success of the addition of rail as a transportation option is important to the neighborhood as is the success of the station.

There are several issues that the neighborhood feels should be attended to carefully in order to make this a success:

· Ensure that the station enhances the economic development opportunities in Madison’s downtown and does not impinge on opportunities in Madison’s East Rail Corridor and East Washington Avenue gateway.

· Provide for the relocation of track currently running through the Central Park site in order to fully take advantage of the economic stimulus that will be provided by development of the park and make the park the best that it can be.

· Seriously consider the implications to property owners along the track. Minimize the impact to their property and strive to enhance their relationship with the track as much as possible.

· Create and maintain an efficient and safe flow of traffic and afford walkability throughout the neighborhood. Minimize the impact and seek to reduce automobile traffic through the neighborhood.

· Preserve existing crossings for auto, bike and pedestrian travel including maintaining the accessibility of the Yahara River Parkway.

· Provide additional controlled crossings to enable quiet zones and eliminate the need for train whistles/horns in the neighborhood.

The Marquette Neighborhood Association looks forward to working with city and state officials to ensure the success of high speed rail in our community.


Scott B. Thornton, President
On Behalf of the Board of Directors
Marquette Neighborhood Association

Cc: MNA Board
City of Madison Alders

High-speed rail controversy on fast track in Madison

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

From a report by Joe Campana on Examiner.com:

A standing-room-only crowd showed up to a public meeting in Madison Tuesday evening to hear, "the train is coming." The first question was by high-speed and commuter train opponent, Bill Richardson, who asked, is this a done deal? He received an affirmative response from State of Wisconsin DOT representatives.

This preliminary public meeting, held in the Atrium Room of Olbrich Botanical Gardens, was organized by Alderperson Marsha Rummel. About 150 citizens attended. Rummel warned the public at the outset that the meeting was not part of the official public process and was intended to be a listening session. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz followed with brief remarks and his vision that the intercity high-speed rail linking Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and eventually the Twin Cities would be an economic boon to Madison by bringing people together in the new economy.

High-speed rail service is expected to begin in 2013 with six daily round trip trains that travel at 79 mph, less than what most consider high speed. Safety equipment will be available and upgraded by 2016 to allow up to 10 round trip trains daily at speeds of up to 110 mph.

The DOT officials reinforced Rummel's warning that the meeting was only an informational meeting and listening session. They reviewed the multiple opportunities for public input on issues associated with the rail corridor and the Monona Terrace rail station. They explained that in future public hearings the DOT will be soliciting public input on the local rail corridor with respect to landscaping, signage, signals, fencing, crossing and other subjects.

Nevertheless, the public criticized the lack of public input on the selection of Monona Terrace for the train station instead of the airport or other alternatives. Later, during the public Q&A, several members of the public criticized the government officials and representatives for not giving specific answers to questions, and at one point tempers flared.

One of the most vocal was Steve Randolph, known and respected for his quiet zone advocacy around the residential Main Street area freight train corridor, which will be converted to the high-speed rail line. Randolph's advocacy resulted in the Wisconsin and Southern whistle ban throughout Madison early last decade.

Randolph requested a Yes or No answer from the State DOT representatives regarding whether or not quiet zones are in jeopardy. He was given a No answer supplemented by "But . . ." by the DOT. The "But response" incited Randolph to continue to criticize the officials for their lack of definitive answers. Mayor Cieslewicz, who worked with Randolph on effecting quiet zones, approached Randolph and tried to help calm the discussion, however, Randolph continued the diatribe over the lack of answers.

One member of the audience standing in the back of the room had been taunting citizen speakers during the second hour of the meeting by disruptively shouting at the top of his lungs, "Speak into the microphone." Disturbed over Randolph's rant, he shouted at Randolph, "Sit down and shut up and give other people a chance." Randolph stormed from the podium to the heckler at back of the room and face-in-face shouted , if you don't like it, you can leave, and shove it. For a moment it appeared there was going to be an altercation, however, Randolph left the room. Afterwards, at least one speaker acknowledged that Randolph affected the peacefulness of their neighborhood through his quiet zone advocacy over the last decade.

The overwhelming majority of the public spoke of concerns over bringing high-speed rail downtown, and few spoke in support of the high-speed rail project and the choice of Monona Terrace as the train station. There was loud applause from the audience especially after each citizen speaker posed his or her objections to the government panel.