The current plans for the Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed rail project call for the Madison train station to be located at the Dane County Regional Airport, on the northeast side of Madison.
However, many Milwaukee area residents say they will not use the high-speed rail service to Madison if it stops at an inconvenient location at the Dane County Regional Airport, which very few southeastern Wisconsin residents use.
A large percentage of Milwaukee travelers to Madison want to go to the state Capitol or the University of Wisconsin, both located several miles from the airport.
“The Dane County Regional Airport rail terminal will jeopardize the success of (the Milwaukee-to-Madison rail service),” said Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman.
The location of the Madison station has yet to be determined, said John Oimoen, high-speed rail program manager for the state Department of Transportation. The DOT is aware of the concerns that some have about the location of the Madison station, he said.
“There is a lot of discussion going on,” Oimoen said. “We need to make sure the train service as convenient and as appealing as possible so people will use it.”
Bauman and other opponents of the airport venue say the Madison rail station should be located either in or near downtown Madison.
One reason state officials have planned for the station to be at the airport is because the Obama Administration eventually wants to extend the high-speed rail service to the Twin Cities. The Dane County Regional Airport is located along the track to the Twin Cities. The train would have to leave that route to get to downtown Madison and then come back out to resume its trip to the Twin Cities.
“It will be 10 to 20 years before high-speed rail service is extended beyond the Dane County Regional Airport,” Bauman said. “Given this reality, it makes more sense to build a downtown Madison station now, and when, and if, high-speed service is extended to the Twin Cities, Madison area station locations can be adjusted if that is deemed necessary at that time.”
As a compromise, a group of Madison residents are pushing for the so-called Yahara Station site at 1st Street and East Washington Avenue. That site is closer to downtown Madison than the airport and is still located along the rail line to the Twin Cities.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz wants the state to consider building stations at the airport and at the Yahara Station site.
Whichever Madison site is chosen, the city will provide buses, and perhaps someday commuter rail service, to get travelers to their final destination, Cieslewicz said.