Chippewa County is being asked to climb on board supporting a plan for passenger rail service from Eau Claire to Saint Paul, Minnesota.
The County Board will be asked at its next meeting on Feb. 14 to endorse a railroad operation that would include both public and private funding.
“The goal of this passenger rail service is to retain essential business talent and an educated workforce in the area, (and) to promote improved quality of life through expanded employment, cultural and educational opportunities,” said literature supplied to the board.
The proposed line is also intended to promote tourism and recreation, along with economic development.
A map given to the board shows a possible rail line from Eau Claire to Chippewa Falls, and one from Eau Claire to Altoona.
The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition backs the concept of a self-sustaining, privately-run rail service. The start-up and capital costs would be somewhere between $140-$450 million.
“The operation would represent a $15-$18 million enterprise headquartered in the area,” stated the information given to the board.
It says the travel time for the 85.5 miles from downtown Eau Claire to the Saint Paul Union Depot would be one hour and 20 minutes, with four round-trips a day. There would be stops in Menomonie, Baldwin, Hudson and Stillwater. The group said it is possible service would be expanded to Minneapolis.
Train riders would have access to food, drinks and wi-fi service for their computers and mobile devices. There would be no charge for baggage and bicycles.
The project fare to travel from Eau Claire to the Twin Cities would be $31 a trip, and it would be cheaper if a rider got off at one of the stops before the Twin Cities.
The coalition said the rail line would also cut congestion on Interstate 94.
The resolution to be considered by the County Board said it is supporting the rail project’s concept and goals, but does not obligate the county to pay for the rail service.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the County Board has not voted on the rail resolution as of Jan. 17, 2017.