High-speed rail myths: Officials hold public meeting - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

High-speed rail myths: Officials hold public meeting to explain the facts

By Dan Cassuto - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook | Blog  |  (608) 661 2727

MADISON (WKOW) -- A lot of people in Madison have the wrong idea about what high-speed rail will mean to their homes and their lives, say officials close to the project.

An East Side neighborhood group held a public meeting Wednesday night to address the concerns and correct the myths about the state's ambitious high-speed rail project that will eventually connect Madison and Milwaukee.

Here are some of the myths alders and state transportation officials will correct:

Myth: Residents can use the high-speed train to commute from the east to west side of Madison.  False.  Madison will be the last stop on the rail line from Chicago to Milwaukee and on to Madison.  It will not be a commuter line from different parts of Madison.

Myth: The train will travel 150 to 200 miles per hour and can take you to Milwaukee in 45 minutes.  False. The top speeds will hover around 100 miles per hour, but the average speed will be 70 to 80 miles per hour.  That means it'll take 1 hour and 10 minutes to travel from Madison to Milwaukee.

Myth: Many homes will be condemned; trees will be cut down; fences will be built.  It's too early to know how the state will respond to the railway construction project.  Fences, trees and eminent domain issues will be researched and addressed, but officials don't expect widespread changes.

Peng Her from the East Isthmus Neighborhood Planning Council is running the meeting and sent us this fact sheet that was distributed:

High Speed Rail Fact Sheet

  1. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) defines "high-speed rail" in three different ways:

  • High-Speed Rail – Express: Frequent, express service between major population centers 200–600 miles apart, with few intermediate stops. Top speeds of at least 150 mph on completely grade-separated, dedicated rights-of-way.

  • High-Speed Rail – Regional: Relatively frequent service between major and moderate population centers 100–500 miles apart, with some intermediate stops. Top speeds of 110–150 mph, grade-separated, with some dedicated and some shared track.

  • Emerging High-Speed Rail: Developing corridors of 100–500 miles, with strong potential for future HSR Regional and/or Express service. Top speeds of up to 90–110 mph on primarily shared track, with advanced grade crossing protection or separation.

  1. Commuter Rail: Passenger rail transport service between a city center, and outer suburbs and commuter towns and often shares existing tracks at speeds 30 mph or higher. (Dane County Regional Transit Authority (RTA))


  1. Metro Rail (rapid transit): Passenger rail that usually covers a smaller area (metro area), has a higher train frequency, and runs on separate tracks (underground or elevated).


  1. 2004, the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative plan was released, focusing on upgrading existing Amtrak routes. The plan had been in development since 1996, led by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Trains would travel at about 110 miles per hour on the primary routes, but 80 to 90 mph on secondary lines. (Existing freight trains run at speeds of about 55 to 80 mph.)


  1. High Speed Rail between Madison-Milwaukee:

    1. Top speed 110 mph

    2. Average speed 70-80 mph

    3. Duration 1 hour 11 min (express)

    4. 6-10 daily round trips

    5. One Way Fair: $20-$26

    6. 3 stops: Watertown, Oconomowoc, and Brookfield

    7. Madison location: Monona Terrace

    8. Service between Milwaukee and Madison is expected to start in 2013. The route will function as an extension of the current Amtrak Hiawatha Service which provides service between Milwaukee and Chicago.


  1. Right of Way: Generally speaking a railroad's right of way is 50 ft from the center of the track on either side (100ft wide). This may change as you enter a municipality. From the 9/2009 WiDOT grant application "All improvements will be completed within existing right-of-way, except for the three new stations in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown. Because these cities are responsible for the design and construction of their individual stations, right-of-way acquisition for the stations is the responsibility of the municipalities. As further planning for the Madison Station is progressed, responsibility for right-of-way acquisition will be the responsibility of the lead agency (to be defined)."


  1. Railroad Crossing: The Office of the Commissioner of Railroads is the state agency with primary responsibility for making determinations of the adequacy of warning devices at railroad crossings, along with other railroad related regulations. These duties include: Installation of new highway/rail crossings; 
    Alteration of existing crossings; Closing or consolidating existing crossings; Repair of rough crossings; Determining adequate railroad fences; and Exemptions from railroad track clearance laws.


  1. The current speed limit for freight trains (class 1 track) in Madison is 10 mph (max).


  1. WisDOT is currently negotiating and will sign a contract with FRA. Once the contract is signed, 2 consultants will be hired. One of the consultant's roles is to evaluate the station site by performing an environmental assessment. The second consultant will be hired to prepare/conduct track and infrastructure design. This consultant's role is to work with and address concerns of residents and stake holders.

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