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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

State keeps working on Milwaukee-Madison railroad

From an article by in The Daily Reporter:
Wisconsin does not have enough money to pay for the estimated $500 million Milwaukee-Madison high-speed rail line, but the state might kick off the project anyway.

“I keep going back to the fact that this is a multiyear project,” said Randall Wade, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s passenger rail manager. “There are things we can do immediately, and I think we should start as soon as possible.”

But before focusing on the Milwaukee-Madison line, WisDOT must consider capacity upgrades to its Milwaukee-Chicago service, which Wade said sets ridership records every month.

Gov. Jim Doyle put $80 million in the state budget to spark Wisconsin involvement in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a multistate effort to coordinate and expand high-speed rail use. WisDOT, Wade said, will use that money for upgrades to the Chicago-Milwaukee line and the Milwaukee-Watertown portion of the line to Madison.

The state agency also asked for $137 million in federal stimulus money for high-speed rail projects. Although Wade said that money could pay for track and signal improvements along the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison route, the combined $217 million would only be enough to establish a passenger-ready line as far as Watertown.

“(Finishing it) is still going to be dependent upon federal funding,” he said.

If finishing the high-speed rail line between Watertown and Madison takes several years, it could test the patience of people in the capital region.

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