EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – In order to catch a train from the Chippewa Valley, you have to drive to Tomah or another location with a train stop. The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition wants to change that.
During the coalition’s monthly meeting, a Wisconsin Department of Transportation representative announced the TCMC plan.
“TCMC stands for Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Chicago,” coalition chair, Scott Rogers said. ”One of the things that is going to be happening within the next year or so, is there’ll be another train on that route, just between Chicago and the Twin Cities.”
The TCMC plan is fully funded by Wisconsin and Minnesota DOTs, Amtrak and federal dollars.
Rogers said adding a shuttle service in places like Eau Claire is a proposed portion of the plan.
“A shuttle would mean you wouldn’t have to drive,” Rogers said. “And then for students or people with disabilities or others who just don’t want to drive, it would make it more convenient for these people.”
Eau Claire City Council member Jeremy Gragert was in favor of the plan.
“We really need to make sure we have options for everybody in our community to get where they need to go and this will be a really exciting and comfortable option for folks because hopping on a train is so easy and enjoyable and if you can buy one ticket with a shuttle timed with it,” Gragert said.
Rogers said there hasn’t been a passenger service in the area since the 1960s; however, that needs to change.
“It’s really for economic reasons,” Rogers said. “We think that to be competitive with other communities, to keep and attract talent here, it’s important to have passenger rail service.”
While shuttles would be welcomed, direct train lines are still the goal.
“Part of planning would be a public-private partnership working with entities like our public department of transportation, our communities along the line, and a commission that was just formed called the Chippewa St. Croix railroad commission that will be charged with working with communities along the line to help to help make all this happen and figure all the puzzle pieces out,” Rogers said.
Rogers said transportation projects usually take a long time, but he’s optimistic they’re on the right track.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in the community, enthusiasm for it, and given the convenience, it would create not have to drive for some trips, I think it will be very well used,” Rogers said.
The TCMC project is estimated to be finished in 2023 or 2024.
The shuttle buses are still being considered and there isn’t a timeline yet on when or if they could be in service.