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Monday, March 23, 2009

Doyle seeks full cost of Milwaukee-Madison high-speed rail

From an article by Larry Sandler and Patrick Marley in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
State officials are seeking federal stimulus money to pay the full $519 million cost of a proposed 110-mph Milwaukee-to-Madison passenger train line, not just part of it, Gov. Jim Doyle says.

If the grant is approved, trains could be running as soon as late 2012 or early 2013, cutting the travel time between Wisconsin's two largest cities to 1 hour, 7 minutes, officials say. That's about 20 minutes faster than the same trip by automobile, depending on traffic.

Service would start with six daily round trips, connecting Milwaukee's downtown Amtrak-Greyhound station with a new station at Madison's Dane County Regional Airport, with additional stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown.

At the same time, service on Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line would increase from the current seven daily round trips to 10, with all of the Madison-to-Milwaukee trains continuing to Chicago. If Chicago wins its bid for the 2016 Olympics, the trains would provide a link between the main Olympic sites and the cycling venues in Madison.

But even without the Olympics, authorities expect the Milwaukee-to-Madison trains to carry 1.08 million riders a year within a couple years after service starts, said Randy Wade, the state's passenger rail chief. Hiawatha ridership jumped 24% last year, to 766,167.

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