Milwaukee to Madison 110 mph stimulus money

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Kramerica, Mar 22, 2009.

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  1. Mar 22, 2009 #1

    Kramerica

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    http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/41608122.html

    State officials are seeking federal stimulus money to pay the full $519 million cost of a proposed 110-mph Milwaukee-to-Madison passenger train line, not just part of it, Gov. Jim Doyle says.

    If the grant is approved, trains could be running as soon as late 2012 or early 2013, cutting the travel time between Wisconsin's two largest cities to 1 hour, 7 minutes, officials say. That's about 20 minutes faster than the same trip by automobile, depending on traffic.

    Service would start with six daily round trips, connecting Milwaukee's downtown Amtrak-Greyhound station with a new station at Madison's Dane County Regional Airport, with additional stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown.

    At the same time, service on Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line would increase from the current seven daily round trips to 10, with all of the Madison-to-Milwaukee trains continuing to Chicago. If Chicago wins its bid for the 2016 Olympics, the trains would provide a link between the main Olympic sites and the cycling venues in Madison.

    See link for rest of article.
     
  2. Mar 22, 2009 #2

    Joel N. Weber II

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    Interestingly, that's approximately the same as the price tag for the MBTA Green Line extension that will build 8 new stations (one of which will replace the existing Lechmere station). But the Green Line project involves rebuilding most of the bridges in the vicinity as well as a tunnel, and the Madison Amtrak project probably does not involve any bridge or tunnel work.

    Building the Madison station at the airport does not sound like transit oriented development.
     
  3. Mar 22, 2009 #3

    Green Maned Lion

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    Its been so long since we've had decent transit that I doubt anyone living outside the northeast even knows what "transit oriented development" is as a concept, let alone how it should be done. Only us walkers who avoid driving whenever possible really have a clue.
     
  4. Mar 22, 2009 #4

    volkris

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    Did they claim they were shooting for transit oriented development?
     
  5. Mar 23, 2009 #5

    Joel N. Weber II

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    Not that I've seen.

    But if you design a train system so that when people get to their destinations they'll need an automobile, you'll dramatically increase the chances that if they happen to have one at their point of origin, they'll simply bring it with them on the highway to their destination instead of catching the train. (You may be able to overcome that with a 220 MPH version of the Auto Train, but nobody seems to be seriously talking about building that.)
     
  6. Mar 23, 2009 #6

    mkellerm

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    Madison has a geography problem that explains the decision to build the station at the airport. Milwaukee-Madison is supposed to be one link in the Chicago-Twin Cities HSR (or, rather, medium-speed rail) route. Madison is located on a isthmus, and if you route the train into downtown you end up heading the wrong direction with no easy way to get back. The airport is on the northeast side of town and a station there allows them to cut the corner and head back out via Portage. There are plans for some form of rail transit between the airport, the capitol, and the university, which is not ideal but better than nothing.
     
  7. Mar 23, 2009 #7

    Joel N. Weber II

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    I've heard this excuse before, but I don't quite buy it. From the southwest end of the isthmus, there is track heading west out of Madison along US 14, as well as more track some miles to the south of that near US 151 / US 18.

    It is true that the track they've choosen to use to the north isn't so easily accessible from the southwest end of the isthmus, but I don't see any reason why they have to use that track to the north of Madison.

    In particular, does anything prevent construction of track along US 12 from Bluffview to Wisconsin Dells (dropping the Portage stop)?
     
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  8. Mar 23, 2009 #8

    Kramerica

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    The "track" paralleling US 18/151 to Dodgeville is a bike trail and has been so for many years.

    The track to the north is the most direct route to take to where the train is heading. If you chose the US 14/12 route or anything else, you may as well just take the time to back into the Madison isthmus for the extra track mileage those other routes would entail.

    The Baraboo Hills just north of Bluffview would be a challenge from a political and environmental standpoint. Large cuts or expensive tunnels would be needed, and those natural areas have large environmental lobbying groups opposing anything. Expansion of US 12 has been on hold for decades because of their (mostly) nonsense.

    Even before the age of lawsuits and environmental concerns, there was probably a good reason that the RR takes a large detour there around the hills and through what is now Devils Lake State Park.
     
  9. Mar 23, 2009 #9

    sechs

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    Like building housing near train and light rail stations? 'Cause they do that around where I live, which is well away from the northeast....
     
  10. Mar 23, 2009 #10

    volkris

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    The people traveling to the airport will be more than happy not to have a car with them. I can imagine helping people get to and from the airport is one of the main motivations behind this project, not some attempt to social engineer a carless world.

    I'm not saying that's the right motivation or even a sound motivation. I'm only saying that these guys are probably not thinking about using trains the same way you are, so their approach shouldn't be measured against the other set of goals.
     
  11. Mar 23, 2009 #11

    WICT106

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    Hooray! Hooray! Now to get the remainder of the route Saint Paul - Madison - MKE - CHI upgraded to 110 mph standards. The article indicates that it would be only another $400 - 500 million, so what is the holdup ?
     
  12. Mar 23, 2009 #12

    Joel N. Weber II

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    Commuter rail to an airport makes sense. But this is marketed as a Chicago to Madison route, and there is no way I'm going to take a train from Chicago to catch a plane at Madison when Chicago's airports probably have direct service to just about everywhere Madison's airport does.

    On the other hand, I guess there's probably approximately no wasted infrastructure if when 220 MPH+ HSR comes along there's a new station built on the isthmus, and the airport/Wisconsin Dells route becomes one commuter rail route into the isthmus and the intermediate stops on the way to Milwaukee become another commuter rail route into the isthmus, so even if the airport station is the Madison train station for now, things can be fixed later.
     
  13. Mar 23, 2009 #13

    Upstate

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    I wonder how prices are at Madison. I am about equidistant from Atlanta and Charlotte and every time I fly out of Charlotte just because prices are usually significantly lower. Atlanta has more direct routes and it would actually be easier for me to go out of Atlanta by taking the Crescent and Marta vs about a 3 hour drive to Charlotte.
     
  14. Mar 23, 2009 #14

    WICT106

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    As the track layout in Madison goes, the most feasible place for the station would be adjacent to the airport. Having lived in Madison myself during the time when the city was discussing and studying where to put their station during yet another one of these initiatives in the mid 1990s, I can assert that it is impractical to place the station downtown, unless one switches the HSR route from the Watertown to the Waukesha sub, because if the station were downtown it would entail a long reverse move, of several miles each time the train would enter Madison. As for the other suggestion the track be built in order to avoid going through Portage on its way between Madison and the Twin Cities, that would also be impractical because of a geological formation known as the Driftless Area, or which the Baraboo Bluffs are only one part. Lots and lots of tunnelling would be required, and the cost would be astronomical. If anyone is going to Madison to catch a plane, they are going to go by air anyways.

    The HSR route is not going to be serving the same market as aircraft are. I do not know how Joel could possibly get the idea that one would travel from Chicago and then fly from Madison, the train is clearly not intended for that purpose, nor is it marketed as such. If anything, the train would serve as an alternative for those who wish to fly into Chicago and then take the train to Madison, not the other way around. The station location is just that -- a location.

    So, to sum it up, the most practical stop for Madison would be at the airport. This would serve as the station for the city. No construction of new routes through Madison to the west, because 1) No tracks exist along some parts of that route, and 2) the tracks going west of Madison, part fo the original Milwaukee & Mississippi RR, built in 1854! are not the most direct route to get to the Twin Cities.
     
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  15. Mar 23, 2009 #15

    saxman

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    On the other hand, what's so wrong with a reverse move of a view miles? Go into Madison one way and go out the other with either a cab car or two locos on either end. Now I'm sure if there is speed limit on push-pull operations so it may not be possible, but I'm all for going in one way and out the other. Just like they do in LAX for the Surfliners.

    That said, looking at Google Earth I'm trying to figure out the way it's planned to go. Would it come from the line roughly parallel to US 151? It looks like that line comes up to the isthmus then there's track making a sharp turn to the north and goes right through the airport and continues on to Portage. Would that sharp curve be a good place for a station? Maybe an airport stop too? I've been to Madison a few times but don't really know everything about the layout and the trackage into it.

    Another thing to think about. How would they route the Empire Builder? Leave it on it's original route or also bring it through Madison. Of course that means ending service to Columbus and may add some time to the route, but if the tracks are 110 mph it probably would be minimal.
     
  16. Mar 23, 2009 #16

    Ispolkom

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    I imagine that there must be good engineering reasons why fast trains between Chicago and the Twin Cities (the 400, the Twin Cities Zephyrs, the Hiawathas) never stopped in Madison, and why I-94 takes the route it does. Avoiding the driftless area and staying on land flattened by the glaciers would be a good one.
     
  17. Mar 23, 2009 #17

    WICT106

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    1. Reverse moves can be time consuming. In Madison, the reverse moves would also take place going into and out of a very congested area, and crossing several dozen streets at grade. Unless you are talking about re-routing everything between Madison and Milwaukee over the Waukesha Sub (nee Milwaukee and Mississippi RR, this alignment is the original one built in 1854. Not sure how many stretches of 100 mph track you would get with this one, as it is curvy), which enters Madison from the southeast.

    1b. When making all of these grade-level crossings, remember that many people will not be as patient as either you or I when having to wait for a train which is back tracking across some heavily trafficked main streets. Madison has become notorious for being anti rail delays, despite what you may have heard elsewhere. The locals have passed repeated ordinances regarding no horns, and complain at many of the local Bulletin Boards if they are delayed even two minutes for a train. So, if one has a reverse move, it just opens one up to all sorts of complaints about the trains delaying someone of their way home from work, or blowing the horns, or being slow, or anything rail related. There will be considerable opposition to reverse moves both in the DOT and out in the general population, because to members of both groups, reverse movements make no sense at all.

    2. You were good to look at the track layout. The planned HSR route would be via the Watertown Subdivision, which is the one that parallels US 151 between Sun Prairie and Madison. It would then transfer over the the Madison and Portage subdivision of the CP, where it would re-join the present day route of the Empire Builder. All trains would be transferred to this route, leaving Columbus without service. From a Wisconsinite's perspective, it makes no sense to continue to serve Columbus while other trains take the new route through Madison (a much larger market for ticket sales). So, by serving Madison directly, one might even see trains such as the Empire Builder break even, or even generate a profit by replacing Madison with Columbus.
     
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  18. Mar 23, 2009 #18

    mkellerm

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    I believe that this option (a station by the curve near the intersection of Johnson and Pennsylvania) came in second to the airport station during the planning process. The main reason for selecting the airport over the curve was that parking and facilities were already available at the airport. A station near the curve (not on it - platform problems) would be much closer (approx four miles) to the capitol and the university, plus trains will have to slow dramatically for that curve anyway, so putting the station there would increase average speeds for through trains. I think there would be some merit in it, but my guess is that service will start with an airport station because that is what is in the current plans.
     
  19. Mar 24, 2009 #19

    Joel N. Weber II

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    I have actually taken Amtrak between BOS and CHI trying to get to Madison, getting a ride in an automobile the rest of the way. The part of Madison I was trying to get to was well beyond the southwest end of the isthmus. The airport does not seem like a terribly optimal location for a Madison station for a trip like that.
     
  20. Mar 24, 2009 #20

    Joel N. Weber II

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    I'm not sure there's any good reason not to have stops at both places. The cost of stopping at the curve is proably something like a minute plus the dwell time, but some of the dwell time at the curve will probably subtract from the airport station dwell time. I doubt the cost for through passengers of stopping near the curve in addition to the airport is more than about two or three minutes.
     
  21. Mar 24, 2009 #21

    Kramerica

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    I had thought the commuter rail was going to the airport too, but apparently the New Starts Application specifies the route that goes to Sun Prairie instead. So unfortunately, there won't be rail access from Amtrak to downtown. Which to me is a real problem, since downtown Madison is definitely pedestrian friendly and a great attraction for visitors.

    Um, $400-500 million is the holdup.

    The train will be an extension of the current CHI-MKE Hiawathas. They operate in push-pull mode with a cabbage, so I don't think the reverse move would be a problem from the train's perspective.

    I like the idea of a stop at both places. The additional stop WOULD be on the commuter rail line, so that would connect to downtown.
     
  22. Mar 24, 2009 #22

    Kramerica

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    Do you have a link to support this claim? I haven't read anything about what affect this would have on the Empire Builder. I do think it would make a lot of sense to have all trains go to Madison though. Then Columbus can be the one getting bus thruway service instead of Madison.
     
  23. Mar 24, 2009 #23

    Joel N. Weber II

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    Why can't they add an airport branch if that's actually commuter rail and not light rail? There are commuter rail systems with an awful lot more than two branches on each side of the system out there in the wild...
     
  24. Mar 24, 2009 #24

    Kramerica

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    It appears as though a branch to the airport is planned for future expansion. But the starter system will only have one line. While compared to other commuter rail systems that's not much, it sure is a lot compared to zero commuter rail lines in Madison currently. (Heck, there are zero in the state, not counting the Chicago-bound Kenosha stop)
     
  25. Mar 24, 2009 #25

    Joel N. Weber II

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    Is there any major cost of adding commuter service on the airport branch if the Amtrak to Chicago project has already built the stations there? I suppose there might be a need for an extra track connection on the isthmus and some maintenance facilities, but usually the reason for starter systems to be limited is the huge additional track and station and maintenance facility costs to expand the system that might not be such an issue here.

    Furthermore, if they haven't yet identified a maintenance facility location the neighbors like, they may find that if they can find some airport land, that will be a much easier location to deal with from a political / NIMBY perspective.
     
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