Wisconsin rail projects have stalled under Governor Scott Walker. The Amtrak Hiawatha service from Milwaukee to Chicago is perfect for the implementation of high-speed rail, but no concrete plans have been made for high-speed rail construction on this route. Amtrak’s Empire Builder service is the route most likely to see the most improvements and action. Moreover, commuter rail projects in Southeast Wisconsin all have been put on hold.
Wisconsin needs to improve its rail infrastructure to integrate its economy to the rest of the Midwest. The future of high-speed rail and commuter rail in Wisconsin look to be stalled for the time being. This must be reversed, existing rail infrastructure must be improved and expanded and new routes are needed to help spur economic growth.
With ridership in the last 2 decades nearly doubling, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to add three express trains from Milwaukee to Chicago. These trains will travel the distance 11 minutes quicker than the non-express trains. Currently, trains from Chicago to the Twin Cities spend, on average, several hours idling as freight trains (who have track priority) pass by. This often causes the passenger trains to be several hours late. However, after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rejected funding from the Federal Government in 2010 no plans for improvements along the Wisconsin segment of the line were made. Due to the distance between the cities and their existing economic ties, a high-speed line from Chicago to the Twin Cities is a perfect corridor for high speed rail and it would create a much larger network.
The MWRRI envisions 7 daily round trips from Chicago to Green Bay via Milwaukee, with additional stops in several other cities along the 180-mile corridor. The rail service would operate between 90-110 mph and the trip would take 2 hours on its current route. The exact route and construction costs are unknown pending a Tier 1 Environmental Study. A coalition called NEWRails, is seeking to help raise awareness and support for the project in order to initiate more concrete planning. According to studies, this link would provide 7,000 permanent jobs and spur economic revitalization in Green Bay and Milwaukee. This corridor even earned inclusion into the 2014 Wisconsin 2030 Rail Plan highlighting its priority for WisDOT.Click here to learn more
The vital corridor is under an environmental and development study by a partnership of Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Illinois Department of Transportation. This study will analyze the benefits of expanding frequency from 7 to 10 trips a day as well as increasing maximum speeds to 90 mph in some areas. This is an excellent route for high speed rail and would demonstrate the feasibility of high speed rail in the midwest. Click here to learn more