January 29, 2010 3:13 PM
Milwaukee will have two high speed rail stations, one at the airport and one downtown. Ideally, Madison would have the same.
Yesterday, we received the historic news that intercity rail service would return to Madison after four decades. Madison will be part of an extensive Midwest rail system that will put us on the map and be a huge shot in the arm for our future economic growth. It's great news, and the first thing I want to do is assure Governor Jim Doyle, Rep. Tammy Baldwin and everyone who worked so hard to get us to this point that Madison is on board with the governor's goal of getting high speed rail up and running by January, 2013. We will not let a station debate interfere with our common goal of getting this done on time.
Having said that, as mayor I can't help but be an advocate for my community, and it's clear to me that the best thing for our city would be to join Milwaukee in having two stations. The Dane County Regional Airport has parking, access to rental cars and, of course, the airport itself. But another location around First Street is much closer to the downtown, has potential for transit oriented development, and could be the spark that kicks off an exciting redevelopment of the whole East Washington Avenue corridor.
The two stations would complement one another. For example, parking would be hard to provide around First Street, but there's plenty of room at the airport. And a First Street stop wouldn't slow down the train's schedule because it needs to pass through that point anyway, and a brief stop there could be subtracted from the time it would otherwise spend at the airport.
The ultimate decision is in the hands of the state Department of Transportation. We've had a great working relationship all along with Secretary Frank Busalacchi and his staff. I'll be meeting with them soon to go over details of the federal legislation, timelines, fiscal issues and design concepts.
But whatever we do, let's not ever lose sight of the fact that this is one great problem to have. Madison is on the map for high speed rail. Let's work cooperatively in the community and with the state and federal governments to make the promise a reality inside of three years.