Supporters of rail service met in Hudson last week
Western Wisconsin needs to step forward and make its case for having passenger rail service available to northwestern Wisconsin.
Those were the sentiments passed on to those attending a meeting sponsored by the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition in Hudson Friday, April 18, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church.
The keynote speaker was Randy Wade, passenger rail manager at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. He said the key to developing rail service in western Wisconsin is federal funding. Most transportation projects are funded with an 80-20 split between federal and state governments.
The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition is a voluntary group of citizens and community leaders working for the development of high-speed passenger rail service through West Central Wisconsin. Supporters of rail service hope to someday link western and central Wisconsin to the Twin Cities, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago.
"We want to make sure we are on the map. We can't afford to be left behind," said Scott Rogers, co-chairman of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition.
Supporters said interest is growing locally, regionally and nationally for passenger rail service to reduce traffic congestion and reduce damaging emissions. Rail supporters point to a number of reasons that rail service will be not only convenient but necessary in the future. Among the arguments are:
Wade told the audience Friday that there is "reason for hope." He said a new president and legislature begins work in 2009, and one of the priority issues will be ground transportation and how it relates to economic development, the environment and national security.
The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition was formed in 1999. In 2004 the city of Eau Claire Comprehensive Plan called for support of high-speed rail service linking Chicago and Minneapolis through Eau Claire and western Wisconsin.