Gov. Walker: Wisconsin to seek passenger rail funding for Hiawatha line

Contact: Cullen Werwie, (608) 267-7303

Application Would Allow State to Save $20 Million that Doyle Administration Had Committed to Spending

MADISON—Governor Scott Walker announced today that Wisconsin would submit a High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant application to the federal government for at least $150 million in upgrades to the Hiawatha line.

“Upgrading the Hiawatha line will save the state money and improve rail service for Wisconsin customers,” said Governor Scott Walker. “The state will save money immediately on capital costs and in the long-term with lower operating costs. Service improvements will also enable the state to recover more from ticket sales.”

The Hiawatha line is a popular existing passenger rail line that provides daily service between Milwaukee and Chicago. The line had record ridership last year carrying nearly 800,000 passengers. Ridership is continuing to grow in 2011.

Wisconsin will join Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Amtrak to submit a joint application which will allow Wisconsin to purchase two additional train sets and eight locomotives. The application will also include funding to construct a maintenance facility in Milwaukee.

The state’s application would allow it to accommodate ridership growth, provide a more reliable service, and recover a greater percentage of costs from its passengers. The federal funds will also allow for lower state operating costs and increase the amount of user fees recovered through fare box revenue.

The Doyle Administration had previously agreed to a $30 million maintenance project paid for exclusively with state money. The new project would provide for a larger train shed and be paid for primarily with federal dollars, reducing the state cost to $10 million. This will save the state $20 million in capital costs and lower the state’s long-term operating costs.