Category Archives: Events

EC Chamber to Host Transportation Funding Forum Thursday

The Wisconsin Commission on Transportation Finance & Policy recently released recommendations to meet the state’s transportation needs for the next decade. Marty Hanson of Ayres Associates served on this commission and will present the findings and talk about where our state is currently at with funding recommendations. Thursday, February 28 from 8-9 a.m. at the Eau Claire Chamber office in the Charter Business Conference Room.

The event is FREE but registration is requested. Please RSVP by calling the Chamber office at (715) 834-1204 or click on the link at our Facebook page. Also follow us on Twitter

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Rail boosters Talk Up Need for Passenger Service

From Mass Transit Magazine
Eric Lindquist
Source: The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.
Created: October 24, 2012

Representatives of All Aboard Wisconsin painted a picture of a future combining the expansive rail network of the past with gleaming new high-speed trains that efficiently zip passengers from place to place as they access the Internet on their wireless…

Oct. 24 — The vision a newly formed passenger rail advocacy group shared Tuesday in Eau Claire could be summed up in four words: Back to the future.

Representatives of All Aboard Wisconsin painted a picture of a future combining the expansive rail network of the past with gleaming new high-speed trains that efficiently zip passengers from place to place as they access the Internet on their wireless devices.

“I think it’s going to have to happen,” said Mike McCoy, president of All Aboard Wisconsin, an alliance of state rail advocacy groups that launched early this year. “The need’s been there for a long time. It’s only grown greater and greater.”

McCoy was one of several people who spoke passionately about the need for more passenger rail service in Wisconsin at a forum attended by about 30 people Tuesday night at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Scott Rogers of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition, said his organization believes demographic, economic, environmental and safety issues eventually will force the return of passenger rail service to Eau Claire, where the last passenger trains stopped running in 1963.

“It’s not just a bunch of rail buffs wishing for the steam engine to return,” said Rogers, whose goal is to be ready “when Wisconsin wises up” and resumes investing in passenger rail.
Service Touted

While McCoy, who has been promoting passenger rail for 25 years, acknowledged being frustrated at the slow pace of progress for the movement, he insisted he hasn’t lost any enthusiasm for the cause.

“We have better service today than we ever have, although it’s not nearly as good as we ought to have,” McCoy said, noting that Amtrak’s Empire Builder route from Chicago to Seattle has nearly a million passenger boardings a year at just its top five Wisconsin stations.

Demand would rise exponentially, he insisted, if the number of trains rose because more people would begin to think of rail as a viable form of transportation.

The Way to Travel

McCoy remains confident his vision of a vast and popular network of passenger trains will become a reality, in part because of all the problems associated with air, car and bus travel.

McCoy contrasted the rising cost and discomfort of air travel with the comfort and convenience of traveling by train, which offers the ability for passengers to get up and walk around and the opportunity to view the landscape, access wireless networks, partake in meal service and even get a bed on a long-distance trip. And after logging about 200,000 miles on Amtrak, McCoy knows something about hitting the rails.

Rail advocates hope last week’s 111 mph test run of a train on part of the route between Chicago and St. Louis, by providing a preview of the travel-time reductions that potentially ride along with high-speed rail, could help people get over the psychological hurdle of thinking of trains as key component of future transportation.

CVTC student Sara Chase of Eau Claire offered a personal illustration of how passenger rail could affect the economy and the next generation.

After graduation, the marketing management student would like to stay in Eau Claire where her family lives but expects to have to move to find the kind of job opportunities she is seeking.

“I would commute to the Twin Cities by train if I could, but since that’s not possible I’ll probably have to move,” Chase said, noting that she could be productive while riding a train versus “wasting” 90 minutes twice a day if she had to drive.

Painful Past

Though rail advocates were crushed two years ago when Gov. Scott Walker rejected $810 million in stimulus money the federal government had pledged to build a Milwaukee-to-Madison high-speed rail line intended to be the first leg of a high-speed route from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities, they’re intent on steering the train away from a political controversy.

“We’re talking fundamentally about the freedom to have travel options,” McCoy said, “and that’s not a partisan issue.”

Eric Lindquist · 715-833-9209 · 800-236-7077 · eric.lindquist@ecpc.com

Copyright 2012 · The Leader-Telegram · Eau Claire, Wis.

Passenger Rail Forum Oct 23 in Eau Claire

All Aboard Wisconsin Community Forum
“Where to you want to go by train?”
Tuesday, October 23, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Chippewa Valley Technical College, Clairemont Campus
Business Education Center Commons, 620 W. Clairemont Ave.

Please join ALL ABOARD WISCONSIN at a Community Forum in Eau Claire to discuss the role of passenger trains in Wisconsin’s future. This is the second in a series of Community Forums we are hosting throughout Wisconsin. Our goal: to engage citizens in thoughtful, informed conversations about our transportation choices in the coming decades.

YOUR involvement is needed to help develop a statewide plan which includes intercity passenger train service – in conjunction with efficiently coordinated, handicap-accessible connections to other transportation choices like air travel, bus service, taxi, auto, and municipal transit.

ALL ABOARD WISCONSIN is an alliance of organizations and individuals promoting passenger trains and connecting transportation choices statewide as an integral part of Wisconsin’s and the nation’s travel network. In this Forum we’ll provide an overview of our existing transportation system, consider potential routes and destinations, and provide a big-picture vision of our passenger train future!

Sponsoring organizations: Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp., West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition, Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance, Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers, All Aboard Wisconsin, Wis. Public Interest Research Group, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, ProRail Madison, NEW Rails, Transit Now!, Midwest High Speed Rail Association, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Wisconsin Association of Taxicab Owners, Empire Builder High Speed Rail Coalition, Wisconsin Urban & Rural Transit Association

May 31: Eau Claire Public Listening Session for Transportation Finance Commission

The Wisconsin Commission on Transportation Finance & Policy will hold a meeting and Public Listening Session in Eau Claire on Thursday, May 31, at Sacred Heart Hospital. There will be a Public Officials session from 3:00-4:00 p.m., and an open session for the public from 5:00-7:00 p.m.

According to the WisDOT website, The Wisconsin Commission on Transportation Finance and Policy was created in the 2011-2013 biennial state budget. The legislation called on the Commission to examine issues related to the future of transportation finance in Wisconsin, including the following:

* Highway maintenance, rehabilitation and expansion projects
* Local aid and assistance programs, including general transportation aids (GTA)
* Transportation fund revenue projections
* Transportation fund debt service
* Options to achieve balance between revenues, expenditures and debt service
* Impact of highway project planning on abutting property

The Commission has a study period of 10 years and is required to submit a report to the Governor and state legislative leadership by March 1, 2013.

There is also a link on the site to presentations at previous meetings and listening sessions.

An impetus for the forming of the Commission is the perfect storm approaching transportation funding in coming years, with declining gas tax revenues but increasing needs. Among appropriate comments to make to the body are anticipated trends and needs in Wisconsin transportation in the coming years, as well as how funding needs can be met. The February 16 meeting minutes and resources include a presentation by WisDOT staff projecting four different scenarios for 10-year funding needs. However, in the staff view even the most ambitious scenario assuming “Multi-Modal Enhancements” sees virtually no expansion in the role of passenger rail service over the next 10 years.

If you’re interested in providing remarks during the Public Listening Session, WisDOT says interested speakers will be asked to register at the meeting and will be called on to speak in the order in which they register. Remarks will be limited to 5 minutes, but unlimited written comments will also be accepted. For written comments, the Commission suggests providing 15 written copies for commissioners, and another 20-30 copies for the public.

The Commmission’s meeting and listening sessions will be held at the Community Auditorium at Sacred Heart Hospital, 900 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire 54701.

Tour the Talgo Trains You Might Never Ride

From the Eye on Milwaukee blog By Jeramey Jannene at urbanmilwaukee.com – May 17th, 2012

The elegant Talgo trainsets ordered by the Doyle administration for the Amtrak Hiawatha are nearly complete. But will they ever be used?

Alas, Sunday is quite possibly the only day you will ever get to go inside them. Tours, children’s activities, and refreshments will be available at the Talgo assembly facility from noon until 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 20th. The facility is located in the Century City redevelopment area at 3533 North 27th Street. Off-site parking is available, with MCTS Routes 27 and 80 getting you there as well.

If you can’t make it Sunday, the trainsets are also currently visible from south side of the facility on W. Townsend Avenue between 27th and the railroad bridge.

Strategically ordered before federal high speed rail grants were announced, the purchase contract pushed Wisconsin to the top of the list and netted Wisconsin $810 million to extend the Hiawatha to Madison and buy more trainsets. Governor Walker’s campaign against the poorly marketed train resulted in the federal government re-appropriating the funds to other states.

The trainsets face an uncertain future following the State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee decision to cancel funding for a permanent maintenance base for the equipment. It remains unclear if the state will put the trainsets into service utilizing the temporary maintenance base (the assembly facility), or mothball the trainsets once they’re complete (potentially violating their contract with Talgo).

Hopefully someday the trainsets will be in use in Wisconsin. Until then I’ll just shake my head at the insane series of decisions taken merely to score political points. I do look forward to seeing our former high-speed rail funds at work when I take the Amtrak Lincoln Service, a corridor being upgraded to higher speed rail, to St. Louis this summer.

Eau Claire Chamber: May 7 Luncheon with WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb

Monday, May 7, 2012
12:00-1:15 p.m.
Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce
101 N Farwell St

From the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce: Join us for lunch with Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb as he gives a department update including: the new WI Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, and the MAPSS performance dashboard to track the state’s transportation network in mobility, accountability, preservation, safety and service. The Secretary will also touch on area projects, economic development and answer transportation-related questions. Cost to attend is $20 for members and $30 for non-members (payment in advance is required for non-members). To register, call the Chamber at (715) 834-1204 or use our on-line registration .

Gateway Corridor: No commuter rail, but urges DOTs to continue to study rail

Gateway Corridor Open houses:
Mar 27 in St. Paul
Mar 29 in Eau Claire
Apr 4 in Hudson
Apr 5 in Woodbury
(details below)

By Andy Rathbun of the Pioneer Press Twincities.com March 16, 2012

The Gateway Corridor Commission has eliminated a proposal for commuter rail between Minneapolis and Eau Claire, Wis., which was one of its plans to relieve traffic on Interstate 94.

The commission voted Thursday, March 15, to strike the plan due to a number of factors, including estimated ridership, economic development and cost, said commission chair Lisa Weik.

Though the commission will not be moving forward with the plan, it is recommending the Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation departments continue to study commuter rail between the cities.

“We are saying it could be option, but it’s not our charter,” said Weik, who also serves as a Washington County commissioner.

At an estimated $1.23 billion, the commuter-rail plan was relatively expensive. Weik said the commission’s preferred plan, which involves bus rapid transit between Hudson, Wis., and Minneapolis, comes in at an estimated $420 million.

The agency is studying seven plans, two of which include light rail.

The Gateway commission anticipates that the federal government will pay for half of the plan ultimately selected, with five metro-area counties and the state of Minnesota paying the other half, Weik said.

Next steps in the process include the development of an environmental-impact statement and open houses where the public can get information and provide feedback about the plans.

“We’re not operating in a vacuum,” said Weik, adding the public has a “huge influence” in the commission’s
decisions.

Weik said 90,000 vehicles cross the St. Croix River on I-94 daily, and the corridor is one of the most congested in the Twin Cities.

Andy Rathbun can be reached at 651-228-2121. Follow him at twitter.com/andyrathbun.

TO LEARN MORE

Open houses about plans for Gateway Corridor transit will be held:

— From 6 to 8 p.m. March 27 at Eastside Community Center at Harding High School in St. Paul.

— From 5 to 7 p.m. March 29 at the Health Education Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire.

— From 5 to 7 p.m. April 4 at the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson, Wis.

— From 5 to 7 p.m. April 5 at Woodbury City Hall.

For more information, go to thegatewaycorridor.com