Dave Reid

High Speed Rail is Coming to Milwaukee

By - Jul 19th, 2010 11:53 am
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According to the Department of Transportation, up to $100 million of the $810 million allocation for the Milwaukee to Madison connection could be spent on the high-speed rail project by early 2011.  These funds will be used to finalize the design and to get construction and upgrading of tracks underway.  A key piece of the design was cleared up recently, when Governor Doyle and Mayor Cieslewicz announced that the Madison stop will be located in downtown Madison at the Department of Administration building, instead of out near the airport.  In a recent press release Alderman Bob Bauman summed up the progress of the project saying “the high speed rail infrastructure is becoming a reality…”

So, in case you haven’t heard, or intend on sending $800 million to Texas, Florida, California, or Illinois, then it is apparent that high speed rail service is coming to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Though, it will take a few years to built and get up to speed.

In the near term the Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA) is coming to Milwaukee.  They will be holding a brown bag lunch to discuss the soon to be built high-speed rail system.  There will be a presentation by MHSRA executive director Rick Harnish regarding the status of high speed rail in the Midwest.  The presentation will be on held at 12 p.m. Thursday July 22nd at the Milwaukee Public Market (400 N. Water Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202).

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21 thoughts on “High Speed Rail is Coming to Milwaukee”

  1. Scott says:

    On a related note, is there any update on the renovation of the barns at the Intermodal Station? I didn’t remember seeing anything in the Station District portion of the Downtown Plan. Is that a DOT project? Thanks in advance.

  2. Kevin Muhs says:

    The Special Solicitation for Final Design of the new train shed says that the design part of the project is due to be completed July 31st. It doesn’t provide any info about a construction timeline, though. Hopefully soon!

  3. Steven Schrab says:

    I love that they’re locating the stop in downtown Madison instead of near the airport. Sounds like a really quick way to get Madison. Hope it’s not too expensive.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Steven Yeah the downtown stop makes it more desirable for sure. Not sure about the long-term impact on the Minneapolis route, but downtown to downtown is what this kind of rail should be doing. I look forward to catching the hsr to Madtown.

  5. Nick Aster says:

    I’m still pretty worried about the political posturing that’s going on vis a vis threatening to cut this off if certain candidates are elected. Assuming Walker wins, is such a pull-out really possible?

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Nick Oh I imagine Walker will try, but the reality of sending $800+ million to some other state, and have wasted $100+ million already might make it difficult to do so. Stop by the HSR meeting to find out more.

  7. Brent says:

    Just waiting for Republicans to begin going insane over this article….

  8. mister_hand says:

    I think DOT should be making a stronger effort to brand hi speed rail and tout the wider economic impact before the next administration comes in. The other side has 12 hours of talk radio every weekday with nothing else to talk about. Amtrak’s pretty weak in that department.

    Slideshows on peak oil are nice, but you have to sell this to suburbanites, so attorneys in Delafield no longer have to schlep into the city to get to Chicago. If a Waterford station gets them on board, so be it. Next step is to show charettes of the development impact in the vicinity of the stations, similar to what’s in the city’s plan for St Paul.

    They should have Talgo put up a shell train downtown so people can see what a non-Amtrak interior looks like. While I’m on the topic, the platforms should be raised for quicker boarding, but I presume that’s at the mercy of the Union Station layout. Ever see people struggle with luggage down those train steps? It’s slow, and kind of unsafe.

    Now, get off my lawn.

  9. mister_hand says:

    My ideal Waterford station will have both fine crystal and hand-made bikes. Watertown is where the HSR station will go.

  10. Dave Reid says:

    @mister_hand Agreed they broader picture hasn’t been well laid out to the public. As far as the stations, in particular the Milwaukee Intermodal Station’s Train Shed is due for replacement, and that will include ADA boarding.

  11. Dave Reid says:

    @Scott Yes it is a DOT project, and so it is on their timeline. That said I believe it has to happen fairly soon as it will bring the Shed up to ADA requirements.

  12. Kevin Muhs says:

    Any interesting news from the brown bag Thursday? I wasn’t able to make it.

  13. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Kevin – Nothing really news-wise, but more focus on perspective of the entire Midwest plan (and how that compares internationally).

  14. Kevin Muhs says:

    @Jeramey – Got it, that makes sense. Thanks.

  15. David Baker says:

    Love this site’s work, keep it up. Hoping for a post soon on the current high speed rail situation– how you see it playing out. Here are my thoughts on the situation.

    It seems to me that Walker has painted himself into a corner here, not wanting to lose the state 5000 construction jobs and a company (Talgo) before he even steps into office, plus the political hammering he’ll take if the billion dollars and 5k jobs are shipped off to New York or California. But at the same time doesn’t want to alienate his base that really rallied around the ending the train cause.

    I think there is room for some sort of compromise. Here’s a couple of ideas– not sure if they could actually happen

    a) Could Milwaukee and Madison just agree to split the $750,000 annual amount, and if any of the other proposed stops still want stations they could pony up whatever amount seems fair, depending on their size? Fewer stops would make it a truer high speed corridor between the two cities– benefiting both cities and perhaps even leading to higher overall usage. It seems like $375,000 from each city a year is a doable amount and probably worth it (especially in Milwaukee if it keeps Talgo in town, and maybe the Feds would agree to cover a larger amount– say 95%, which would make it even more possible). This seems like it would give Walker enough cover for his base not to turn on him (unless he really thinks he’ll be able to get the money allocated for other infrastructure uses, I think he might leap at this escape– if the Democrats are willing to let him off of the hook).

    b) Would the Feds agree to have all of the money go towards upgrading the CHI-MKE line to true high speed rail (Would the additional 800 million, on top of the funds already allocated to upgrade it to a 90-110 mph corridor be enough cash to approach a 150-200 mph line?)? Obviously this wouldn’t be as good for Madison or the eventual hope of continuing the line to Minneapolis, but I think would actually be a bigger boon to MKE then the Madison line. Plus the yearly maintenance / costs are already in place– 90% covered by the feds (I’m not sure how the remaining 10% is split between Illinois and WI?)

    I’d be interested in everyone’s thoughts. Is this just too politicized to make any type of compromise possible?

  16. Dave Reid says:

    @David Thanks!

    As far as A, interesting idea… but it might be too late

    As far as B I don’t that as really this money needs to go to projects that have ready to go plans.

    That said I think the funds will end up in IL, or NY.

  17. David Baker says:

    Thanks for the reply Dave, From reading the JS today it sounds like the money for the CHI-MKE upgrades is part of the $800+ milllion chunk? So we’ll lose that as well? Even though Walker supports that line– is that your understanding?

  18. Dave Reid says:

    @David Well I had always thought the CHI-MKE upgrade was the $13 million over the $810. That said it really is one big project, and so it is possible there are lots of contingencies tied together. For example, the rebuilding of the Intermodal Station seems to be tied up in this mess, despite it not being part of the HSR project.

  19. Eric Schierer says:

    This project only involved a couple of fairly small upgrades for the CHI-MKE portion (an extension of the platform at MKA station and a new crossover between tracks, if I’m not mistaken). The upgrades necessary to add more roundtrips and increase speeds between CHI and MKE were not part of this plan and I’m not sure how far the planning for those upgrades has advanced. However, I would certainly like to hear more about whether the funding could be switched from the MKE-Madison extension to the CHI-MKE portion as some sort of compromise.

  20. Eric Schierer says:

    I should add that in the overall Midwest Regional Rail System planning, upgrades for the CHI-MKE portion of the line, to allow greater speeds and significantly more trains/day, were pushed to the later phases, after the MKE-Madison and then Madison-St. Paul extensions were in place.

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