State looking to upgrade the Hiawatha line - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

State looking to upgrade the Hiawatha line

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MILWAUKEE (WKOW) -- Gov. Scott Walker is looking to upgrade the Hiawatha train line running between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Walker announced Tuesday that the state will file a High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant application to the federal government for at least $150 million in upgrades to the Hiawatha line.

"Upgrading the Hiawatha line will save the state money and improve rail service for Wisconsin customers," Walker said.

The Hiawatha line had record ridership last year, carrying nearly 800,000 passengers.

Wisconsin will join Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Amtrak to submit a joint application, which will allow Wisconsin to purchase two additional train sets and eight locomotives.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he supports Walker's plan. Barrett is a Democrat who ran against Walker in the November election.

"I will be in contact with the U.S. Department of Transportation to endorse the application and to encourage the federal government to fund these improvements," Barrett said in a written statement.

The announcement comes several months after the Republican governor turned down $810 million to build a Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed line. Walker had campaigned against the rail line as a waste of taxpayer money.

He says upgrading this line, however, will save the state money. He says it will lead to lower operating expenses, fewer capital costs and more ticket revenue.

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