The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is now seeking public comments on the proposed Muskego Yard bypass project, which is one of several rail-improvement projects needed to expand Amtrak’s Hiawatha passenger service to 10 daily round trips.
The Muskego Yard railyard is located in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, south of I-94 east-west and east of I-43. WisDOT is proposing a $54.6 million project there that would allow freight trains to bypass the Milwaukee Intermodal Station in downtown Milwaukee.
The department is seeking public comments through Aug. 7 on the proposal. The project as presented would create a double-track mainline through the rail yard, install a new signal system and rehabilitate and replace bridges.
This would allow up to 11 daily freight trains to bypass the intermodal station, which would free up capacity for more passenger trains at the station and also reduce delays at local street crossings.
It would also reduce freight travel times, improve flexibility of freight-yard operations and increase train yard access.
Following the public comment period, WisDOT would next complete environmental clearance and preliminary engineering through the fall. Final design would take place in 2021, and construction is slated for 2022-2023.
Work is funded through a $26.6 million Federal Rail Administration grant and a WisDOT match. Kansas City-based HNTB is a project consultant.
WisDOT and others in support of an expanded Hiawatha service say more trips are needed due to the service’s popularity.
“The Hiawatha is one of the busiest Amtrak routes in the nation, and the busiest in the Midwest, setting a record in 2019 of more than 880,000 passengers,” Arun Rao, WisDOT passenger rail manager, said in a recorded online presentation of the project. “This service is critical to the economic growth and recovery in the region, and the Hiawatha also provides connections to seven other Amtrak Midwest regional services.”