650 people attend session on Milwaukee-Twin Cities rail plan

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

From an article by Steven Verberg in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A boisterous crowd of more than 650 couldn't get all the answers it wanted Tuesday night about the impending collision between boosters of a Milwaukee-to-Madison rail line and an incoming governor who plans to stop it.

But that didn't keep people from peppering planners of a Milwaukee-to-Minneapolis passenger rail service with questions for about 90 minutes during a Wisconsin Department of Transportation information meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on East Washington Avenue in Madison.

Many of the queries were loaded, lobbed by critics of Gov.-elect Scott Walker's vow to block a passenger train line through the capital.

"I cannot speak for the governor-elect," Wisconsin passenger rail planning manager Donna Brown replied at one point. "If we have to put (plans) on the shelf, that's something we can do, but then the plan is there if it's needed later."

A Madison route is one of 25 being evaluated based on cost, ridership and dozens of other factors. A Federal Railroad Administration time line calls for narrowing the options to a single proposal sometime in 2012, said Charlie Quandel, a consultant hired by the Minnesota transportation department.

Some routes would take the high-speed line along the existing Amtrak route north of Madison, or along the state's east side, or through Iowa, Quandel said.

Planning is part of a nine-state initiative that started in the mid-1990s and that involves routes across the Midwest.