February 17. 2010 2:00AM - Last modified: March 14. 2012 12:45PM

Wisconsin mayors join push for high-speed rail


The Obama administration's recent decision to award $823 million in high-speed rail funds to Wisconsin is the first step toward a stronger, faster rail system that will reduce congestion, oil use, and carbon emissions, according to a new report by WISPIRG, a left-leaning public advocacy research organization.
According to data cited in the report, the completion of a national high-speed rail network would reduce car travel by 29 million trips and air travel by nearly 500,000 flights annually.
Oconomowoc Mayor Maury Sullivan, Watertown Mayor Ron Krueger, High Speed Rail Association of Wisconsin legislative liaison Gary Goyke and WISPIRG director Bruce Speight presented the report, "The Right Track," at the State Capitol Tuesday.
"A national network of fast, frequent and dependable trains is a critical tool for reinventing the nation's economy. Our state has recognized the need to greatly improve our rail system and Oconomowoc is committed to building off that momentum," Sullivan said.
"High-speed rail is an economic development opportunity that rarely occurs," Krueger said. "The City of Watertown in partnership with our surrounding communities, counties and the State of Wisconsin intends to use this opportunity to promote housing, retail/commercial, industrial and tourism development in a logical and sustainable manner."
The report analyzes the potential of high speed rail in nine different regions, including the Midwest, and presents 11 public-interest recommendations for how to spend high speed rail investments in the future.
"High-speed passenger rail is an idea whose time has come in Wisconsin; and our citizens have shown that they will ride frequent, fast, reliable passenger rail service in record numbers if it is available," said Dave Mumma, chair of the High Speed Rail Association of Wisconsin. "We don't have to look any further than the highly successful Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha service, which set ridership records while maintaining the best service reliability performance in the Amtrak system, for proof of that fact. We fully expect that the Milwaukee-Madison service, with higher speeds and the most modern equipment, which will extend Hiawatha into a new territory, will once again demonstrate that convenient, fast, well-run service will bring the riders aboard."
"This project might one day be part of a national network of high-speed rail on par with the bullet trains of Europe and Asia, but it is going to take a long-term commitment from all levels of government to plan and fund the system," said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG director. "Without such a commitment, this recent momentum could be lost. We simply cannot afford a false start on high-speed rail."