Thursday, April 16, 2009

High-Speed Rail In Midwest, Through Wisconsin, Moves Forward

Midwest High-Speed rail, with a Chicago hub and Wisconsin service, makes the initial cut in President Barack Obama's announced plan to put America's lagging passenger rail service on the faster track.

Ten potential corridors nationally will compete for billions over the next five years, with the initial infusion totalling $9 billion.

The Midwest plan should get some funding, as Obama hails from Chicago, and the Midwest effort builds on a grassroots movement and existing successes, like the Hiawatha run between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Said the Detroit Free Press Washington, DC bureau:

"The White House replaced a plan for funding investment in high speed rail, identifying 10 corridors which could receive federal funding. Among them are:

"• A Chicago Hub network, which Obama called “something close to my heart” in reference to his adopted hometown, linking much of Midwest, including Toledo and Detroit with Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Kansas City, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky."
Great news - - the US needs modern rail to offer alternatives on short-to-medium inter-city trips - - but Wisconsin and Dane County planners are going to have to find a better location to maximize the value of a Madison stop.

Especially if the Midwest rail initiative is pegged to Chicago's 2016 Olympic Games bid: Madison wants to host cycling events, but would ticket-holders want to board a train in Chicago - - and get deposited at Madison's airport?

The Madison connection is mentioned in this CNN story, here, [and there's been a nice Capital Times piece with photo on its website since this afternoon, but I'm adding this update at 9 p.m. Thursday night and I still don't see anything about this development at].

Current plans have the station at the Dane County Regional Airport, which is good for travelers heading north and west to Minneapolis, and beyond, but defeating ridership to Milwaukee or Chicago.

The decommissioning of Madison's downtown train station at W. Washington Ave just a few blocks from the Capitol Square is just another chapter in the sad saga of city train station closures nationally, but I'm betting that Madison, Dane County and state government can find a better option than the airport.

I'd look on the near east side, below the Square, where there are train connections near the MG&E plant, for example.

Could be a real boost for the downtown: time to get creative.


MichaelP. said...

interesting b/c the NYT article makes no mention of the Chi/MKE route

James Rowen said...

MichaelP; I noticed that, but checked numerous other sites and they all had the 10-city list, including the Midwest corridor.

James Rowen said...

In re: My earlier comment response: Should read 10-corridor list, not 10-city.

Elliott said...

The new plan must include a maglev design that mirrors our existing Interstate Highway System. The whole continental U.S. must be linked by one uniform, lightning-fast network. If the new high-speed rail plan remains fragmented (and encompasses outdated, traditional high-speed technology), America will never realize the expected benefits of a new system. The investment will only pay off if the job is done right. See this blog: