on Wed Jun 17 19:44:15 2009, in response to Amtrak to Green Bay WI?, posted by Olog-hai on Tue Jun 16 20:00:55 2009.
Only other news I could find on this comes from the Green Bay Press Gazette, from the beginning of the month.
Train advocates eye experimental Amtrak route between Chicago and Green Bay
Fox Valley passenger service seen as link to world economy
By Steve Wideman • Gannett Wisconsin Media • June 1, 2009APPLETON — Local passenger rail advocates want Amtrak to establish an experimental passenger train route between Chicago and Green Bay.
Bringing passenger trains back to the Fox Valley would connect this area to the world economy and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of travelers, according to the representatives from the group called NEWRails, which is dedicated to renewing passenger rail service after a 39-year absence.
"We could transport people from here and get them connected to Chicago, one of the biggest economic engines in the country and the world. That's an incredibly powerful thing to have," said Paul Linzmeyer, president of the organization and a founder of New North, an economic development consortium of 18 counties in Northeastern Wisconsin.
The last passenger train traveled through the Fox Valley on April 30, 1971.
"What if Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics? If we had a passenger rail system in Northeastern Wisconsin, we could be a part of that whole venue," Linzmeyer said. "The concept of a world economy is now very much a reality."
NEWRails leaders recently brought their rail travel wish list to Appleton, including a plan to convince state transportation leaders to ask federal officials to approve an experimental Amtrak route on existing Canadian National Railway tracks with local stops in Appleton, Neenah and Menasha, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac.
"We have a perfect opportunity to establish an experimental route," said David Schwengel, a former Chicago Northwestern track worker and rail consultant to the Department of Transportation in the recently completed reconstruction of the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee.
"Canadian National's freight business is down significantly because of the recession. That means there is room on the tracks to fit in a passenger train. The CN could also use revenues generated through fees paid by Amtrak to access (Canadian National's) tracks," he said.
Schwengel prepared an experimental Amtrak schedule showing two trains a day running the 218-mile route from Green Bay to Chicago. He said an experimental route would establish temporary stations using prefabricated buildings similar to mobile homes.
"An experimental route likely would be fully funded by the federal government. Once the route is accepted by the state, operational expenses would be the responsibility of state and local government," Schwengel said.
Charlotte Foth of Menasha, one of 40 people to attend Wednesday's meeting at the Appleton Public Library, is an ardent fan of train travel and recently rode Amtrak's Hiawatha service between Milwaukee and Chicago.
"I find riding trains to be romantic and relaxing," Foth said.
Foth said the ecological benefits of train travel deserve attention, "especially in these times when we are concerned about global warming."
"We've got to stop putting so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," Foth said.
Schwengel said diesel locomotives on the Hiawatha service consume about one gallon of fuel per mile.
That means the train, with five passenger cars and accounting for stops, uses 218 gallons for a one-way trip. Assuming a passenger car with a 25-mile-per-gallon fuel ratio makes the same trip, the car would consume just 8.2 gallons of gasoline.
But if 100 people rode the train instead of using their vehicles, that would save more than 600 gallons of gasoline and reduce emissions, Schwengel said.
"We estimate 150 people would use the train at various points along the route," Schwengel said.
While tracks between Milwaukee and Green Bay are generally in good enough shape to allow the 79 mph speeds required for passenger service, an estimated $125 million is needed to update signals along the route to allow freight and passenger trains to safely use the same tracks, Schwengel said.
Schwengel said the $125 million would come not from the state, but from an $8 billion federal budget appropriation intended for rail improvement across the nation.
State Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, and a member of the Assembly's transportation committee, met briefly with NEWRails officials on Wednesday and agreed to arrange a meeting between the advocates and DOT officials.
"We do need to work with DOT to encourage better transportation throughout the state, including rail and other methods," Schaber said.
— Steve Wideman writes for The Post-Crescent of Appleton.