Train advocates eye experimental Amtrak route between Chicago and Green Bay

APPLETON — 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. (via Green bay Press Gazette )

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