What it’ll take to see a railway through Madison by 2035, according to Amtrak

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Amtrak released its 2035 vision for expanded railways, but the company says it needs others to get on board before any road leads to Madison.

“Largely these are going to be locally driven decisions by these states through their metropolitan planning organizations and their state DOTs and their elected officials,” Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari said Thursday. “This is a visionary map. It is an aspirational plan, but it is not ‘Amtrak saying trains must go here now and trains must go there then.’ That’s not how the process will work probably.”

President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes an $80 billion investment towards passenger and freight rail services.

“Certainly that $80 billion is a down payment, but if we’re going to be running trains in 2035, I don’t know if you can count on funding from 2021 to get you to 2035,” Magliari said.

According to the map released Wednesday, following the President’s announcement, Wisconsin’s capital would connect to cities like Milwaukee, Chicago and Minneapolis.

“We believe there is a really great market, and we’ve believed this for quite a long time,” Magliari said.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said Thursday she has already spoken with Amtrak and federal authorities. “I think this is something that would be fantastic for our economy, for our region and for our state,” she said.

Since 1971 Amtrak has been operating a station in Columbus, Wis., approximately 40 minutes outside Madison.

Matt Schreiber, the director of planning and development for the City of Columbus, said the station brings up to 15 thousand visitors a year and most of them are from Madison.

“Whether you need to get that quick bite to eat before you hop on the train, get something from the gas station or any other retail shops. I think that’s where Columbus really benefits from having this asset in this community,” Schreiber said.

NBC15 asked Magliari what could happen to nearby stations like Columbus and Portage if Madison were to enter the scene.

“We’re not anywhere close to that,” Magliari responded. “The idea here is to grow the network by addition, not to grow the network by subtraction.”

According to Magliari, Amtrak is currently working with WisDOT on this project. WisDOT officials told NBC15 Thursday afternoon they were not available for an interview.

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