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Long Delayed Subway

People peek out the train doors at the 86th Street station as one of the first trains pauses at the platform on the newly opened Second Ave. Subway line in New York Jan. 1. 

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.

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(7) comments

Michael

@ $31 a trip, I presume that is one way. Must be a short train, I can't see many people utilizing the service.

Merlin

They might want to do some research on how profitable commuter rail really is. Only the Chicago System makes enough money to pay for itself and that excludes Amtrack which is nearly entirely subsidized by the tax payer. The entire east coast system including New York is HEAVILY subsidized by the tax payer. Even the "light rail" in Minneapolis loses money and is HEAVILY subsidized.

They tried to do this between Madison and Milwaukee and the projected tax payer cost for operation to keep the cost of a ride down was astronomical. Thankfully the Federal offer to build it was refused.

If a private company wants to do this and take all the risk - GREAT! We all know what happens to public transportation projects, eventually the tax payer foots the bill. There has to be a clause in any agreement that the State of WI and it's tax payers are not liable for one penny of this now or in the future, then I will get on board with the idea.

onlyonevote

There has never been a train system built in America that was built meeting the projected cost figures. This is nothing more than another approach to take over the existing county transportation budget.

Gracie

We already have the $10 wheel tax and so with this would probably come a $20 rail fee. I for one do not need anymore tax to pay. This is absurd!!!

uradbag

Stop building roads and a rail service would be utilized.

onlyonevote

"Stop building roads and a rail service will be utilized." Okay, let's try that. This approach wouldn't cause any problems?

up in arms

This show more tax fat for this community. Who is sitting around coming up with these projects? This is going to fall onto local or state taxes to pay for any financial short falls. The reason they want to offer this is so they can create urban sprawl here in Chippewa. Offer the small town feel for people who want to work in the cities. They can't over develop or Rooney properties can't because the jobs just are not here. So now they come up with an easy way to take people to the jobs. Good grief then comes this Giant school district. I hope this plan moves out of this community as swifty as it rolled in.... And anyway, where the h*ll is all this money coming from?

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