Amtrak proposes expanding services in Wisconsin

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As part of President Biden's infrastructure law, Amtrak is expanding.

Madison's mayor was quoted in the Milwaukee Business Journal saying that a passenger rail link between Madison and Milwaukee could happen in five years. 

CBS 58's Bill Walsh spoke to Amtrak and found out it could be even sooner than that.

"A Milwaukee-Madison link could happen in five years. You were saying that may be optimistic," Bill Walsh said.

"Or not," said Marc Magliari, Amtrak Government Affairs & Corporate Communication. "We're waiting for the federal government, which now has the funding to make it a lot easier to start new service, to come up with the priorities and the rules. The good thing is this is not a new idea in Wisconsin. Wisconsin DOT has certainly been engaged. Amtrak published last year something called "Amtrak Connects Us," which is a map of more than 160 places that need more Amtrak service or any Amtrak service. Amtrak has never served Madison because it was on a route that was not chosen when the federal government drew the maps back in 1971 for us to start using."

"Is it fair to say Milwaukee and Madison are engaged and in support and that could fast track new service?"

"The fact that Wisconsin DOT is already a partner with Amtrak and already has been supporting a service that pre-pandemic was carrying almost 900,000 passengers a year between Chicago and Milwaukee gives you an advantage. If we're talking about extending service between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities, and we very much are, we'll take the current Hiawatha train that stops in Milwaukee and turns back and just carry it on to the Twin Cities. That's a real, live, funded project we're, I think, going to see happen in the next year or two, if not sooner."

Magliari said nearly all of this proposed expansion could be done on the existing footprint. 

He saw minimal need for any land acquisition or environmental studies.

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