It’s being pitched as a boon to business, with riders tapping away on laptops as they multi-task their way between Milwaukee and Madison. But state Senator Judy Robson says a couple other demographics will welcome the option to hop on high speed rails: seniors and the disabled.

“This is just a very sensible and very convenient way to provide for transit options,” the Beloit Democrat said this week, as she and Democratic colleagues on a legislative committee voted to accept federal funding for high speed rail between the state’s two largest cities. “There’s some elderly people and disabled people who cannot move between one city and another.”

State acceptance of the $810 million in federal stimulus means work on the line could begin this year. Track and locomotive upgrades should allow the trains to travel at 110 miles an hour by 2015, at a ticket cost of 33 dollars one way. High speed rail could eventually be extended to the Twin Cities. State Representative Jennifer Shilling said high speed rail appeals to students. “The opportunity to hop on the train, to go to Minneapolis or Chicago . . . is something that is very enticing to them,” said the La Crosse Democrat.

Republicans on the legislature’s Joint Finance committee derided the Madison to Milwaukee line as a boondoggle which will be underutilized and heavily subsidized.

Bob Hague (1:20 MP3) AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (1:20 MP3)

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