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Group hopes to bring passenger rail service back to Chippewa Valley

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 7:10 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition is hoping to create a passenger commuter rail line going from St. Paul, Minn. to the Chippewa Valley.

“The coalition is a group of community and business leaders that have been working establish passenger rail service to our community starting with service between Eau Claire and Saint Paul,” Coalition Chair Scott Rogers.

The line would be part of a public-private partnership. The coalition is working with cities and counties along the proposed route to form the Chippewa-St. Croix Rail Commission. The commission would serve as the public side of the partnership, teaming up with a private operator.

The train would start out running four daily round trips on the Union Pacific tracks.

“You’d have an alternative to driving. You’d be able to be more productive when you’re on board when you’re in business or be able to relax and have both hands on the wheel,” Rogers said.

The Eau Claire City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to join the rail commission.

Council President Terry Weld sees passenger rail as a growth opportunity for cities along the route.

“Whether it’s homes and, relocating to those smaller communities knowing that they can jump on a train and get to work in Minneapolis or whether it’s spending a day or half a day in each community,” Weld said.

Rogers said rail service will also make it easier to attract companies and skilled workers to Eau Claire.

“We need more people in our community and it’s one way that makes us more competitive by making it an attractive place to live,” he said.

Rogers said if commuter passenger rail service is successful it could make the Chippewa Valley an attractive destination for potential future high-speed rail service.

Rogers said there’s no cost estimate or timeframe for commuter rail service since the rail commission hasn’t been formed yet.

The coalition’s eventual goal is to expand service to Chicago through Milwaukee.

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