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Frequently Asked Questions

The City is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), Amtrak, and other stakeholders to capitalize on the greatly increased federal funds to expand intercity passenger rail and to bring Amtrak service to Madison. Two recently released rail plans identify the need for passenger rail service in Madison – Amtrak’s Connects US (June 2021) and the U.S. DOT’s Midwest Regional Rail Plan (October 2021).

Amtrak’s plan initially recommends extending four daily Hiawatha trips to Madison, connecting the city to both Chicago and Milwaukee with reliable, comfortable passenger rail service. In the long term, Amtrak recommends extending three daily trips from Madison to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Map of southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and SW Michigan, showing recommended routes
Credit: Recommended Amtrak Routes – Amtrak’s Connects US Plan

The US DOT’s plan identified the Madison to Chicago corridor as a “Core Express service” – the backbone of the network with the highest ridership potential. It goes on to say that Madison was a significant market “critical to operational viability of the Core Express corridor between Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul” and that it should be “included on any mainline route alignment.”

Map, using dots as points, showing network or routes from Chicago, IL
Credit: USDOT - Recommended Midwest Rail Network from Midwest Regional Rail Plan

The greatest opportunity lies with the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in late 2021, which includes an unprecedented $66 billion in funding for passenger rail services improvements and service expansion. To prepare for on this opportunity, the City of Madison Common Council allocated funds in May 2022 to conduct a study that will identify a locally recommended passenger rail station location for a future extension of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service.

The Passenger Rail Station Study will determine a preliminary program for a modern intercity passenger rail station including passenger waiting areas, parking, platform size and configuration, and the need for light maintenance and crew accommodations. The City is coordinating with Amtrak to determine the station program needs and to screen potential locations based on operational viability. Other important considerations for the station will include multi-modal transportation access, the site’s ability to accommodate the station program and future service expansion, and opportunities to advance local plans, equitable development, and tourism infrastructure.

The study will initially look at broad corridors within the City of Madison and then look at more specific locations once those corridor areas are narrowed.

Map of Madison Downtown Isthmus showing potential station locations
Potential Station Locations

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Project Kick-Off Meeting - December 7, 2022

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Frequently Asked Questions

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