Thursday, January 28, 2010

Passenger Trains Are Really Coming to Madison

Excuse me if I take a moment to pinch myself - Ouch - OK, it's really happening.

Wisconsin is actually getting the federal money to establish passenger service (up to 100 mph) between Madison and Milwaukee; that's about 10% of the national total. At one time receiving the funding had seemed like a virtual certainty, but then when the application process started we saw passenger rail plans sprouting like mushrooms - $55 billion in proposals popped up for just $8 billion in funding. Doubt crept in. Would California suck up all the money?

Not quite, but they are getting $2.25B. The Midwest did quite well - thanks in large part to many years of planning.

The Wall Street Journal story:

"The administration plans to give $1.1 billion to boost the speed of passenger trains running between Chicago and St. Louis to 110 miles per hour. In all, rail projects in the Midwest are expected to receive nearly $2.6 billion to improve service in corridors linking Minneapolis and Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago, and Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, Oh. Florida will get $1.25 billion to develop an 84 mile high speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando."

From story by Jason Stein :

"Wisconsin will receive $810 million in federal stimulus money to establish high-speed passenger rail from Milwaukee to Madison and to study the possibility of extending it to the Twin Cities, President Barack Obama's administration will announce Thursday."


  1. I'm quite gratified that this looks like it will come to pass....but I am quite curious as to how this project would cost $810M. Generally track rehab is on the order of $500K-$1M per mile; signalling and crossing improvements $250k/mile, and station costs variable based on how elaborate and how many will be built. There does not appear to be a need to purchase additional right-of-way (the basic line is in place and is a straight shot between MKE-MSN). Cars and locomotives (if the runs simply were going to be extensions fo the current Hiawatha Service) may also already be budgeted for (as Amtk is purchasing >100 new units next year). How much of this is being paid to consultants and other extraneous sources? Is there any available line-item budget document that one can view?

  2. Where would the depots/terminals be in each city? One thing that's a concern with high speed rail is that once you get to either city, it's a real pain to get around. We don't have the subway/train/bus infrastructure like they do in Chicago or New York.

  3. Madison's would be at the Dane County Airport. Milwaukee's is downtown (and at the airport). I don't know about Watertown, Ocnomowoc, or Brookfield.

    It wouldn't be any bigger (or lesser) pain than arriving by plane in Madison.

    According to the Watertown paper: "the city would look to purchase and raze the current Pick ‘n Save building at 607 S. Church St. and build a 5,000-square-foot train depot in that spot."

  4. Oconomowoc's would probably be the former Milwaukee Road depot, close to downtown. At brookfield the former Milwaukee main lines split, right at the old Brookfield depot (I really hate the text editor in this site as you can't paste links or even use your cursor to navigate what you're typing!!!).