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Friday, December 3, 2010

High-speed rail could run through Chippewa County — if it is ever built

From an article by Rod Stetzer in The Chippewa Herald:

EAU CLAIRE — Chippewa Falls has a lot at stake if the high-speed rail project from the Twin Cities to Chicago finally gets a green light.

Two of the final 10 routes being considered for the passenger train traveling up to 110-mph would go through the city, while two would go through Eau Claire (one route would go through both Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire).

But the fate of the project is unclear, in part because of Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s pledge to reject federal money for a line between Madison and Milwaukee.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are each contributing $300,000 toward the rail study, with the federal government paying $600,000. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is administering the federal grant.

Chippewa Falls City Planner Jayson Smith summed up Wednesday’s informational session in Eau Claire, a meeting that drew a standing-room only crowd at the Best Western Trail Lodge.

“This is just an initial study,” Smith said, pointing out that Wednesday’s session was only part of the process.

On Tuesday, Smith noted, the Chippewa Falls City Council will be invited to the Gateway Coalition, a group that will look at several factors, including the increasing volume of traffic on Interstate 94.

The high-speed rail study is inching along. A decision on the final route for the project won’t come until July 2012, said Charles H. Quandel of the Chicago consulting firm of Quandel Engineering Services.

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