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Letter To The Honorable Ray Lahood, Secretary, Department Of Transportation

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Feingold, Kohl Go To Bat For Wisconsin High-Speed Rail Line

Wisconsin's Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl are urging the Obama administration to support Wisconsin's proposal for high-speed passenger rail service from Milwaukee to Madison. In a letter sent to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today, Feingold and Kohl stated their support for Wisconsin's request for federal funding to develop a high-speed passenger rail line to connect Wisconsin's two largest cities. The senators support Wisconsin's shovel-ready proposal, which will create thousands of jobs, stimulate local economies, address traffic congestion and help the environment by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and gas usage.

"Expanding Wisconsin's high-speed passenger rail service would be a boon to our economy, helping to create jobs when we need them the most," Feingold said. "Wisconsin has been planning for this expansion for years and the state's shovel-ready proposal provides a common sense investment to create economic activity and also address longstanding problems like traffic congestion in a responsible way. I applaud Governor Doyle for his efforts and I will continue to work with the governor, Senator Kohl and others to help make this a reality."

"I'm proud to join with my colleagues in fighting for Wisconsin's fair share of the federal stimulus dollars. A Milwaukee to Madison high-speed rail corridor has numerous benefits, including job creation, easing congestion and reducing harmful carbon emissions. This application is a strong first step toward realizing those benefits and represents the State's long-standing commitment to providing the best possible options for the travelling public," Kohl said.

As outlined in Feingold and Kohl's letter, the Madison to Milwaukee rail service is estimated to create nearly 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin by 2013, reduce automobile trips by 7.8 million over 10 years, save an estimated 27.6 million gallons of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 269,000 tons. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus, has $8 billion in funding available to invest in high-speed rail across the country. Wisconsin is requesting $651.8 million in federal funds to develop the rail service. The Wisconsin proposal would build off the existing successful Hiawatha Amtrak service that already links Milwaukee and Chicago by extending the service to Madison with additional stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown.

A copy of Feingold and Kohl's letter can be viewed below.

November 5, 2009

The Honorable Ray LaHood
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

We are writing in strong support of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's application to the Federal Railroad Administration for funding to provide high speed passenger rail service between Milwaukee and Madison under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program.

The Wisconsin proposal would build off of the existing successful Hiawatha Amtrak service that already links Milwaukee and Chicago by extending the service to Madison with additional stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown. It is hard to overestimate the variety of benefits that would accrue from linking the two largest cities in Wisconsin as part of an expanding rail network in the Midwest.

With a main goal of the stimulus legislation being to create and retain jobs, it is important to highlight that this project is estimated to create nearly 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin by 2013. In addition to creating many highly skilled positions, expansion of passenger rail is also expected to be an important driver of economic growth in and around the communities served by the expanded route. On the flip side, without the project, traffic congestion is likely to grow in this corridor and be an increasing waste of time and drag on productivity.

At the same time as this project is helping to improve the economy, it will also address important long term issues of traffic congestion and environmental sustainability by shifting cars off the road. Wisconsin estimates that automobile trips will be reduced by 7.8 million over ten years, saving an estimated 27.6 million gallons of fuel and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 269,000 tons. But the statistics only tell part of the story, as the improved passenger rail will also interconnect with other modes of transportation such as public transit and this improved mobility is expected to promote more livable and desirable communities.

Wisconsin has been planning for this expansion of passenger rail between Milwaukee and Madison for many years and the majority of the groundwork for the project is completed. So the project is essentially ‘shovel-ready,' reducing the risk of delays and meeting a key criterion in creating jobs quickly as part of the stimulus program. For example, an environmental assessment of the corridor has already been completed and approved by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2004. Additionally, Wisconsin has shown strong support for passenger rail and has existing bonding authority that it has used in the past to purchase the Milwaukee Amtrak station in 2007 and more recently to purchase two new train sets for use on the Hiawatha and eventually the expanded service to Madison from Milwaukee.

While linking Wisconsin's two largest cities with passenger rail is a major step in and of itself, this project is also part of a larger vision for creating a more robust passenger rail network throughout the Midwest. Wisconsin has been working with other Midwestern states for over a decade to put together a long term plan for an interconnected network that will be stronger and more effective than a number of discrete projects. While the Milwaukee to Madison expansion is a shovel-ready component of this vision, ultimately the plan would be to connect to Minneapolis and other cities in the region.

We believe the proposal to expand passenger rail service from Milwaukee to Madison will be an important economic driver for Wisconsin and the Midwest, while at the same time addressing long-term transportation needs in a sustainable manner. While many regions are applying for a portion of the $8 billion in high-speed rail funding included in the stimulus bill, we believe Wisconsin is unique in its progress and prior commitment to bringing high-speed rail to the State. We share the State's commitment to this valuable project and encourage you to give the application serious consideration.

Sincerely,

Senator Russell D. Feingold
Senator Herb Kohl


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