Minnesota is moving forward with ideas on passenger rail, regardless of Wisconsin Governor-Elect Scott Walker’s tabling of the Madison-to-Milwaukee high speed rail. Rail advocates long term plan was to extend the line to the Twin Cities. The Gopher State is holding a series of public meetings next month.
Minnesota DOT Passenger Rail Director Dan Krom says it’s part of a “federally prescribed” process that examines possible routes in Midwest rail expansion, some of which do not include a route through Madison.
Although Walker has stalled work on high speed rail, Krom says Minnesota’s plans are in such a preliminary stage, Wisconsin’s activity is not a factor here.
By-and-large Minnesota residents are interested in expanding passenger rail. Krom cites input from 15 public hearings on rail, completed last year in which 90-percent of questions and interest was on passenger trains. He says Gopher State is interesting in getting connecting to the Midwest both physically and economically through Chicago.
In Wisconsin, the support is not as strong. A poll taken last week by the conservative leaning Wisconsin Policy Research Institute says 52-percent of Badger State residents oppose high speed rail. George Lightbourn, who heads the think tank, says the results were drawn virtually down party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans against.
He says the poll involved two questions, first a direct for-or-against. Then pollsters interjected arguments brought forth by the proponents and opponents of high speed rail. When that was occurred, Lightbourn says WPRI saw a slight uptick in opposition to the plan.