Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Overview and mission

I've decided to try running a blog related to rail projects in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Illinois. My plan is to find and interpret news related to developments along the Minneapolis/Saint Paul – Madison – Milwaukee – Chicago corridor, though there will likely be a few detours along the way.

This rough corridor was historically served by some of the fastest trains in the United States from the 1930s into the 1950s, when the Milwaukee Road Hiawathas, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Twin Zephyrs, and Chicago and North Western 400s raced through this region at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Since the late 1940s, increasing restrictions in the name of safety caused many trains in the U.S. to slow down rather than speed up just as competing road and airline networks grew significantly.

This region has been interested in bringing back fast passenger trains for decades. The state governments of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois started studying the concept starting around 1990. In 1992, the Chicago – Milwaukee line was designated as a federal high-speed rail corridor, and that was extended several years later to the Twin Cities. Today the corridor is served by Amtrak's Empire Builder, once daily each way between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest, and the Hiawatha Service, several times daily between Chicago and Milwaukee. An $810 million extension of the Amtrak's Hiawatha to Madison, Wisconsin is under construction. The states of Minnesota and Wisconsin have also been studying possible routes for high-speed rail between Chicago and the Twin Cities for the past several months, and were targeting September 2010 as the finish date. That means they are expected to post their findings any day now.

Unless political issues cause projects in this region to completely stall, the next several years should see a lot of activity. I've been frustrated by the depth of coverage on this subject, so I hope that through my research and writing, I can help give the public a better understanding of what's going on.

Thanks, and I hope to write again soon.