WisBusiness: Coalition rallies for high-speed rail along Mississippi River

By Gregg Hoffmann

For WisBusiness.com

A group of business people, community leaders and others have formed the Empire Builder High Speed Rail Coalition to lobby for a high speed rail line that would connect Chicago and St. Paul via La Crosse and other Mississippi River cities.

A reported $8 billion in stimulus money reportedly has been earmarked for passenger trains. Funds for a high speed route in the Midwest reportedly have been included in federal and state transportation budgets, but a tug of war has been going on for the exact route.

Some people in the Eau Claire area — calling themselves the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition — have lobbied for the route to run from the Twin Cities to that city and then south.

The Empire Coalition argues that the Mississippi River route would service more people, businesses and universities. The group has started an online petition drive.

In the petition, the group calls for the route to include St. Paul, Red Wing, Lake City and Winona, all in Minnesota, La Crosse-La Crescent, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago. The route basically would follow that of the current Empire Builder Amtrak service.

The coalition also asked that “a timeline for completion of High Speed Rail between Madison and La Crosse be articulated as soon as possible.”

Madison has been lobbying for a long time to have rail extended to that city. The current Empire Builder stops in Columbus as the closest destination to Madison.

The Capital Times in Madison endorsed in an August editorial the route that would run through La Crosse.

High-speed rail is seen as an important cog in revitalizing the economy, no matter what route it takes.