Milwaukee-Twin Cities HSR Route Study Continues; Eau Claire meeting December 1

What could be one of the most consequential meetings affecting the future of High Speed Rail for West Central Wisconsin will take place in Eau Claire on Wednesday, December 1.

That’s the day of a public information meeting regarding the study now underway to examine potential routes for Milwaukee-Twin Cities High Speed Rail. Being conducted under the leadership of the Minnesota Department of Transportation — in cooperation with Wisconsin DOT and at the direction of the Federal Railroad Administration — the study is examining all potential rail routes between Milwaukee and St. Paul/Minneapolis for the future service. MnDOT and WisDOT are holding six meetings in cities impacted by the study. The Eau Claire meeting will be 5-7 p.m., on Wednesday, December 1, at the Best Western Trail Lodge, located at the Wis. 37 exit off I-94. Other dates/cities are Nov 29 in St. Paul (Union Depot), Nov 30 in La Crosse (Best Western Riverfront), Dec 2 in Fond du Lac (UW Fond du Lac), Dec 6 in Rochester, Minn. (Mayo Civic Center, Elliot Suite), and Dec 7 in Madison (WisDOT Southwest Region Office).

The West Central Wisconsin route via Black River Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie and Hudson is a key route in the running for the study. A strong turnout for the meeting could be important to the public input process as potential routes are narrowed down. It may also be timely because the controversy over planned construction of the Milwaukee-Madison portion has been caught up in political controversy.

Your attendance and participation in this public input session will be extremely valuable in two ways. First, a strong show of interest in passenger rail could have a significant impact on the current controversy over whether Wisconsin will even continue its passenger rail program. Second, as the study narrows the possible Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities routes, a high level of participation will help the case for routing it through West Central Wisconsin (via Black River Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie and Hudson). The meeting will have an open house style format, so you won’t have to speak in front of a large group if you want to provide comments to officials about high speed rail or its possible routing.

As the public input process goes further, the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition will assert that passenger rail service will be a critical future component to our region’s infrastructure. We believe there is a strong case for choosing West Wisconsin as part of the routing for the primary Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities high speed rail line: Its strong population growth record, access for over 33,000 college students, the need to alleviate travel bottlenecks across the St. Croix River, the strength of the Eau Claire-St. Paul segment in the Minnesota Rail Plan, and a potentially superior physical route because of the existing high-capacity, but under-utilized railroad right of way.

MnDOT’s website has more information about the study and what will take place at the meetings. The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition will host a brief press conference at 4:45 p.m. in the lobby of the Best Western Trail Lodge. The official open house begins at 5:00 p.m. MnDOT and WisDOT will make a brief presentation at 5:30 p.m.

This event is worth attending even if you’re not sure about high speed rail. It will be a good opportunity to ask questions of transportation experts, see exhibits about the process, and talk with citizens interested in the issue.

We hope to see you in Eau Claire Wednesday evening at 5 p.m.

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