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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wisconsin lands $800 million for high-speed train

From an article by Tom Held in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Wisconsin will receive more than $800 million to build a high-speed rail line carrying passengers between Milwaukee and Madison at 110 mph and recapture a piece of a regional rail system largely abandoned six decades ago.

The high-speed line could be up and running as early as 2013, the state says.

President Barack Obama mentioned the federal investment in high-speed rail in his State of the Union speech Wednesday night and was expected to announce the specific awards for 13 projects nationally at an event in Florida on Thursday morning.

A fact sheet issued by the White House lists the $810 million for the stations and track improvements necessary for the high-speed line connecting the state's two largest cities, along with improvements to the Amtrak Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago that will serve as the building blocks for a 110-mph service along that route.

Ridership on that line nearly doubled from 397,518 passengers in 2002 to 766,167 in 2008, then leveled off in 2009. The decrease was blamed on the recession, which decreased travel across various modes of transportation.

The federal funding is part of an $8 billion package of rail grants approved by Congress in the 2009 economic recovery act. It provides money to build up the tracks and start operation of a high-speed rail connection that had been stalled in Wisconsin for decades.

"I am really pleased with President Obama's investment in the future of Wisconsin's economy," Gov. Jim Doyle said late Wednesday. "This is a major job creation project that will provide a long-term boost to our economy.

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