Thursday's big news was the announcement that some $810 million will be spent in Wisconsin to create high-speed (110 mph) passenger rail service between Madison and Milwaukee in the next several years. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is pumped, and the squabbling between the "why-are-we-paying-this-ridiculous-sum-of-money" and the "time-for-rail-has-come-again" crowds has already begun. Thursday's Journal main story racked up some 69 comments in that vein.
But given that the line is going to happen, the next big question is where will the Madison station be? Plan A is Dane County Regional Airport, but there was already a big push underway for a downtown stop at a site backers are calling "Yahara Station" near the intersection of First Street and East Washington Avenue. Matthew DeFour of the Wisconsin State Journal reports that the state will have the last word on station location, but that County Executive Kathleen Falk wants the airport and Mayor Dave would like a downtown stop.
Maybe both could happen. Or something else entirely. Dane County Board Chairman Scott McDonell tells Joe Tarr of Isthmus he thinks the stalled Union Corners development at East Wash and Milwaukee Street would make more sense.
And what about commuter rail? Steve Hiniker of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin tells Channel 3000 that the advent of high-speed rail will be good news for a potential local rail line that would serve Madison-area locations. That's been a hot topic around here ever since Gov. Jim Doyle approved the creation of a Regional Transit Authority, which has the power to tax citizens for transportation infrastructure.
As Kristin Czubkowski of the Cap Times reported earlier this year, local conservatives are up in arms over what they see as a waste of money to inconvenience drivers. Conservative blogger David Blaska puts the RTA at No. 3 on his list of reasons why county government matters, so expect to hear a lot about commuter rail during this spring's County Board elections.