Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is predicting a Madison-Milwaukee rail line within the next five years.
She told the Milwaukee Business Journal last week that, while it’s not yet officially in the works, a proposal by railway company Amtrak could be headed to Wisconsin.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway says that she has confidence that a rail line between Wisconsin’s two largest cities can become a reality.
“It started with Amtrak. When Amtrak released their most recent plan for building out their network, they included Madison on that map. That’s a really key piece of this. And now with them saying Madison is on our map, we want a station in Madison, we want to come through Madison, That’s one really key piece that I think helps make this a reality. The other important piece is that there is funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law for rail transfer, for passenger rail,” Mayor Rhodes-Conway says.
The renewed interest in a rail line between Madison and Milwaukee began last year, when the federal infrastructure bill passed and Amtrak released their map for expanded rail lines throughout the country.
A spokesperson for Amtrak tells WORT that tentative plans are in the works but nothing concrete is confirmed, and more information will be available sometime this year.
This project will be run by Amtrak and not any individual city, but Rhodes-Conway says that the city is doing what it can to bring the project to fruition.
“Our transportation folks here in Madison are in contact with both state and federal folks, and with Amtrak, about this project and about how we can forward this project. With the bipartisan infrastructure law being passed, we are waiting on guidance on those funds to see who would be eligible to apply and who would need to lead the project here in Wisconsin, but I’m very hopeful that this is something that we are going to be able to put together,” Mayor Rhodes-Conway says.
Last fall, the city of Madison set aside some money to work on the project in the 2022 operating budget. $120 thousand dollars have been set aside to enlist a consultant for programming and planning activities associated with bringing a rail to Madison. The main purpose of this position would be to find a location in Madison suitable for an Amtrak station, as well as act as an arbiter between the city and state and federal officials.
But it’s not just the cities that need to be involved. Rhodes-Conway told WORT that the project will require collaboration between the cities, Amtrak, and both state and federal transportation departments.
The state department of transportation told WORT that they have been in contact with Amtrak about a potential project in Wisconsin, but at this point they are not involved. A spokesperson tells WORT they do not know how much the project would cost.
The Amtrak line would be a different service than a plan proposed more than a decade ago to bring high speed rail to Wisconsin. That plan, proposed by then-Governor Jim Doyle, was quickly nixed by his successor, former Governor Scott Walker, when he took office in 2010.
That reversal , caused the state to enter a nearly three year lawsuit with train manufacturing company Talgo, who had already built trains for the project. Wisconsin paid the company around $50 million dollars in a settlement, reports Wisconsin Public Radio.
After more than a decade, officials announced in January that those trains are finally headed to Lagos, Nigeria.
Photo courtesy: Aris / UNSPLASH