Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Derailed in Wisconsin

Dateline: 9:56 am May 13, 2011 Filed under:

My heart goes out to Wisconsin this week, but there is a part of me that says “you got what you asked for.” According to the Capital Times in Madison, Ray LaHood has announced the U.S. Government will not be including imrpovements to the Hiawatha Line, connecting Milwaukee and Chicago, in its latest round of funding. The state of Wisconsin requested $150 million in upgrades to the line, which is growing in popularity, having increased ridership by 6% last year to 783,000 riders.

This news is a shame for users of the line, but it comes on the heels of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker returning a $810 million grant awarded last year to expand service from Milwaukee to Madison as part of an effort to eventually connect high speed rail from Chicago to Minneapolis. That service would have enabled riders to travel from downtown Chicago or downtown Milwaukee to a proposed terminus in downtown Madison, which with a University and state offices, could generate substantial ridership.

The state of Wisconsin sent a clear signal they didn’t see rail service a an important part of their future by turning back funding for the Milwaukee to Madison line, and the U.S. Government appears to have taken that as an indication that perhaps they are not deserving of upgraded service, even on an already proven successful line like Chicago to Milwaukee. That is the biggest shame of all, because the Hiawatha Line is really one of the most deserving lines, with proven ridership and growth, for intelligent investment in our nation’s infrastructure. Unfortunately politics derailed it.

I guess if you want better rail service, you can’t have one foot on the platform and one foot on the train, you have to get on board!

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