Passenger Rail From Eau Claire to the Twin Cities? The Discussion Continues ...

Tom Giffey

All aboard, Wisconsin.
All aboard, Wisconsin.

Can the Chippewa Valley support a passenger rail line to the Twin Cities? That’s the issue explored in a front-page article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which details ongoing efforts to bring passenger rail back to Eau Claire after a more than half-century hiatus. The article, published in the June 20 edition, discusses the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition’s grassroots effort to create a public-private partnership for passenger rail service between Eau Claire and St. Paul’s Union Depot along the existing Union Pacific freight rail line.

According to the article, the rail coalition has been “emboldened by privately funded transit projects in Florida and Texas (and) the Trump administration’s support of public-private partnerships to bolster the nation’s infrastructure.” The line would cost between $100 million and $250 million to build, and its operating cost would be paid for by passenger fares. The article continues:

“Nothing we’re looking to do here has been done before,” said James Coston, chairman of Corridor Capital, a Chicago-based passenger rail development, finance and management firm that plans to invest in the Eau Claire project. “This is a real grass-roots effort.”

The Eau Claire-St. Paul line would feature stops in Menomonie, Baldwin and Hudson in Wisconsin and Stillwater in Minnesota. A one-way trip traveling at a top speed of 80 mph would take about an hour and 20 minutes and would cost $30 to $35, though some discounts may apply, and fares would be less for stops in between. Four trips a day are planned, two in each direction, with Wi-Fi, snacks and beverages available for passengers.

Check out the full article on the Star Tribune’s website. And a word of warning, the first paragraph contains another cringe-worthy reference to "mini-Portland."

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