La Crosse picked over Eau Claire for commuter train route

2011-11-17T08:42:00Z 2011-11-18T19:55:34Z La Crosse picked over Eau Claire for commuter train routeBy Herald Wire Services Chippewa Herald
November 17, 2011 8:42 am  • 

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Federal Railroad Administration says a route running along the Mississippi River is the most feasible and reasonable for a proposed high-speed commuter train between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

That puts an end to another option that would have sent the route along the I-94 corridor through Eau Claire.

However, not only is the preferred route in the earliest planning stages, but fixing the existing track for the entire high-speed line could cost as much $3 billion — and such funding isn't visible on the horizon.

But advocates hailed Tuesday's announcement as an important step in getting more money for faster passenger rail service.

"We're pleased that we're able to find a path to move forward and continue to develop the project ... if nothing else," said Dan Krom, director of the passenger rail office for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“If we can get to Chicago in 5-1/2 hours, we can compete with autos,” Krom told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Advocates say upgrading the existing track could produce top speeds ranging from 80 to 110 miles per hour and cut more than two hours from a Twin Cities-Chicago trip.

They scaled back expectations for speed after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rejected federal funding for a more expansive high-speed rail system in his state.

The Minnesota route would upgrade the Amtrak Empire Builder line that runs largely along Hwy. 61 through the Minnesota cities of Hastings, Red Wing, Winona and La Crescent before crossing the Mississippi River into La Crosse.

The selection, which allows officials to pursue environmental and engineering studies, in particular disappointed local officials in Eau Claire and Rochester, Minn.

“With the I-94 corridor continuing to be the fastest growing area in the state we are going to have to look at future transportation issues along this route, with passenger rail being a part of the conversation,” said Scott Rogers, co-chairman of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition.

Rogers has been an advocate for both routes. Brett Geboy, a spokesman for the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, said his organization has also supported both routes.

“The (Mississippi) river route and west-central route should both have passenger service, so we’re not against there being service through La Crosse,” Rogers said. “But we do think there are advantages of our route being the primary route.”

Regardless of the current proposal, Rogers and Krom said efforts to get passenger rail to the Chippewa Valley will continue.

The state rail plan in Minnesota calls for service to Eau Claire, a Gateway Corridor study is in the process of assessing transit options in the area, and a previous report from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation highlighted the benefits of passenger rail in both the Eau Claire and La Crosse markets.

“We certainly aren’t done, even if this plan is moving in that direction,” Rogers said.

As far as Rochester is concerned, Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown said that the long-term prospects of the Twin Cities-Chicago line are far from clear because "Wisconsin's not terribly interested in participating."

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(6) Comments

  1. Lord_Atmo
    Report Abuse
    Lord_Atmo - July 19, 2012 12:52 pm
    Psst hey. All those tax funded airlines don't haul goods either. Airmail, UPS, Fedex Maybe more people use roads, but those roads also cost MORE money as well! I'm all for fixing them, but adding lanes is very expensive and unnecessary. After all, I shouldn't have to spend my tax dollars on a highway upgrade that I won't ever drive on. So claims republican logic.

    And why do trains need to be profitable? Why aren't interstate highways held to the same requirements? where's THAT private funding?
  2. Report Abuse
    - November 18, 2011 3:09 pm
    lefty17 said: ".. Railroads made this country what it is...."

    Key word here is MADE. Made is past tense, meaning in the past. Just as the Unions were once a good thing, so to have they gone the way of the slide rule.

    It's funny how the railroads is dominated by the unions and losses money on a regular basis and needs the government to keep afloat.
  3. where_there's_smoke
    Report Abuse
    where_there's_smoke - November 18, 2011 9:10 am
    Lefty I'll say this slower...a commuter rail will not carry any goods across our country. More people use cars and airplanes this project is just pandering to the Unions and is a waste of tax dollars. Put the money into the roads that will be used more by the taxpayers if the price of the ticket to ride truely reflected the actual cost no one would buy in as they couldn't afford to ride.
  4. lefty17
    Report Abuse
    lefty17 - November 17, 2011 7:03 pm
    I will say this real slow so maybe it sticks. Highways cost taxpayers money and airports cost taxpayers money. Are you still with me? Railroads made this country what it is and still move many goods far more efficiently than trucks or planes. Just ask Enron as they haul our hills away. I know what comes next. The airlines and trucking companies pay their way and are ever so profitable. Not really. But thats another story for later and it's scary. Now off to bed.
  5. empire 2
    Report Abuse
    empire 2 - November 17, 2011 5:48 pm
    If trains were profitable private companies would build and operate them. Why should the taxpayers who may NEVER ride the train be forced to pay for it? Liberals,
  6. where_there's_smoke
    Report Abuse
    where_there's_smoke - November 17, 2011 5:38 pm
    Amtrak costs taxpayer dollars every year and has yet to be profitable. Why is this a good idea?
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