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Monona Terrace Rail Tracks
View of railroad tracks in Madison just south of Monona Terrace turning north onto John Nolen Drive.

The state Department of Transportation is planning on one Madison Amtrak station in 2013, but one expert found that having two stations, downtown and at the local airport, is what works best in many other cities.

Author James McCommons, who spent a year riding 26,000 miles across the United States by rail, is speaking Tuesday about his book, "Waiting on a Train," at the Madison Central Library.

Having two stations makes train service more convenient in Milwaukee, which has stops at the airport and downtown, McCommons said. He also saw stations in both locations in European cities, where he recently rode trains for 50 hours over a two-month period.

"In Europe, they have both a downtown stop and an airport stop because they know you need to bring all these modes together," McCommons said. "We need better connectivity between these modes."

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One thing he observed in his travels is that rail passengers won't necessarily take well to having to switch to a different mode of transportation, such as a bus, to get to their destination, an argument that favors locating the Madison station Downtown.

In many other places, the airport also is connected by train so that passengers have only a short walk between modes of transportation.

Whatever number of stations Madison gets, Wisconsin is already well ahead of other states in planning for the future of rail in the United States.

"With a lot of these states, they want better passenger rail service, but they expect Amtrak to provide it for them," McCommons said. But in states such as California, Washington, Illinois and Wisconsin, state officials are committing to subsidizing rail service and buying train sets. "These DOTs are thinking of themselves as departments of transportation and not highway departments."

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