West Central Wisconsin Rail Service
Posted: February 27, 2009
Since the 1950's, government has recognized that rail service through Wisconsin linking Milwaukee (from Chicago) to the Twin Cities should be routed through the LaCrosse region. However, over the past 20 years, it is evident that the population growth in the Badger State is mostly generated from St. Croix County towards all municipalities to the east along the I-94 corridor. Consequently, as the federal government earmarks millions of dollars for improved rail transit in its recently-passed stimulus package, it only behooves area lawmakers and concerned taxpayers to see if it is possible to sway public opinion to include West Central Wisconsin for funding of commuter rail projects that are ready to be implemented - or, as our president says, "shovel ready".
Fortunately, the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition has been lobbying for the Chippewa Valley to become part of the high-speed rail network that connects Milwaukee to the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, the western portion of the state north of Tomah is not included in that outdated plan. So, it appears that politics will play a part as to whether the Eau Claire area will be left out of the equation for high-speed rail service since state Department of Transportation officials have resigned themselves to the fact that all rail transportation will go from Milwaukee to Madison through LaCrosse on its way to the Twin Cities.
I ask anyone who cares about our region's economic livelihood for the next two decades to contact lawmakers and/or DOT officials to help find a way for West Central Wisconsin to be a part of the once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunity that is soon to be available for transportation projects that are considered "shovel ready". The State of Wisconsin is more than ready to begin construction of a multi-million dollar rail project compared to other states.
Whenever public dollars are involved in projects of this magnitude, every state wants a piece of the newly-funded pie. So there is bound to be political implications as to who qualifies and who gets left out until the next cycle of our tax dollars are allocated toward projects that will put people back to work and reinvigorate a stagnant economy.
On the other hand, this could be a shing moment whereby neighboring states agree to help one another and show the rest of the country that a bi-partisan and collaborative effort helps an entire region take advantage of an opportunity to improve the economy.
Let the DOT know how important this potential infrastructure improvement is to the Chippewa Valley. Go to: www.wiconnections2030.gov.