High-speed rail advocacy group stresses cooperation, planning to achieve ‘bold vision’ for passenger rail in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — A nonprofit high-speed rail advocacy group on Friday stressed the importance of cooperative short-term and long-term planning in bringing increased passenger rail service to Wisconsin.

In a virtual webinar Friday afternoon, the High Speed Rail Alliance laid out what it called a “bold vision” for rail in the Badger State. The vision includes a proposed high-speed train line connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse and the Twin Cities, plus rail service between Milwaukee and Green Bay and buses connecting train riders with smaller cities like Wausau and Stevens Point.

“We need to be thinking about a statewide effort and a statewide coalition to make it happen with a mix of immediate improvements, mid-term improvements and a long-term plan, and to figure out the phasing, you have to really think about a long-term plan,” Rick Harnish, the group’s executive director, said.

The vision the group laid out is even more comprehensive than Amtrak’s Corridor Vision released this spring that included proposed new service to Madison, Green Bay and Eau Claire. In April, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said she was absolutely in favor” of bringing service to the capital city.

RELATED: Amtrak proposes expanding services to Madison

Harnish said Wisconsin is one of the states with a lot of opportunity, citing efforts a decade ago to connect the state’s two largest cities with high-speed rail that, while ultimately scrapped, did much of the preliminary work needed to make the connection a reality.

Madison, though, needs to come to a consensus on a train station location very quickly, Harnish said, stressing public buy-in is a crucial factor in that process.