Group Seeks Passenger Rail From Madison To Chicago

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Group Seeks Passenger Rail From Madison To Chicago

Premiere Date: 
June 20, 2014

All Aboard Wisconsin's Gary Goyke on this weekend's discussions over the proposal.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Passenger train service from Madison to Chicago is on the wish list for a travel by rail advocacy group. All Aboard Wisconsin wants to figure out how to use existing freight rail lines for passenger trains. The group has a train trip planned for this weekend to get people talking about the possibility. Gary Goyke with All Aboard Wisconsin joins us now, and thanks for doing so.

Gary Goyke:

Absolutely glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

Frederica Freyberg:

So did this plan take shape after high-speed rail was nixed in Wisconsin?

Gary Goyke:

Yes, yes, it did. And you know, that's the reality of this situation. We have a political climate which is not going to allow us to move forward on it with the government as a partner. So our 13-member board of directors and our organization said, what can we do now, what can we creatively do now? And so we are starting with private companies, and we're sort of doing a feasibility study tomorrow. So the trip that's going to go through Edgerton and Madison and over to Boscobel is going to bring together people that are going to talk about, is this-- can this become a reality? Do we have the fortitude, do we have the commitment to try to make something like this happen?

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you have any idea how much money it would cost to make this happen? And even if not, where would it come from?

Gary Goyke:

The companies that are involved, Frederica, are short line railroads. And this is a very interesting development in our state. There's a new symbiotic relationship between freight rail and passenger rail. They need and they are beginning to like each other more. That's a huge development in this area. So the freight rail companies make money if a passenger train runs over them just as well as a train filled with paper or cheese or whatever it is from Wisconsin. So I have detected this new collaborative interest. And then you have the tourism people. So maybe the trains might take the form of a specialty train, like a Christmas train or a holiday train or a Polar Express. But I definitely think there is-- We're going to have an honest discussion with about 25 stakeholders tomorrow. We're going to cross the Wisconsin river three times. It hasn't been done in passenger rail for decades. And we're going to talk seriously about this-- We're trying to get more passenger trains to more places in Wisconsin.

Frederica Freyberg:

So it's kind of at this point a kernel of an idea with a lot of passion potentially behind it.

Gary Goyke:

Yes.

Frederica Freyberg:

But one of the things that I read when some other people were talking about this in the headlines was that the state of Wisconsin, which oversees railroads, says it's never heard of this.

Gary Goyke:

Right. We did not-- we did not-- we did not and did not want to invite the Department of Transportation to this discussion because the political reality right now in our state is there may be interest, but it's up to us to talk to the private companies. I don't-- we don't have the resources to go through another huge political battle on this, but we do have-- That's the reality of the situation. So I want to work around that in a positive way, where we can convince businesses, the university system, people in tourism, the hotels to make this happen.

Frederica Freyberg:

Where do you get the trains from?

Gary Goyke:

The train is coming from a company called Iowa Pacific Holdings. Iowa Pacific Holdings is a national company. It's a privately-owned holding company. They have two trains in the United Kingdom, and I believe, nine trains they operate. They are in the process of connecting Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma by train, by passenger train. So they are known for their specialty trains, which would be, as I mentioned, Polar Express, for example. And so they're interested. They certainly -- That's their business. And they can creatively sit down and talk to the old-- the metro people, the Wisconsin Southern. They can try to piece together a proposal that would happen. There is possibly-- It wouldn't be state or federal, but my concern, my goal, our goal, is to make sure that the local units of government are involved. Because if you want to connect the city of Madison's transit system with any train service, you want to have that intermodal connectivity so that it really does work.

Frederica Freyberg:

And you do have some of that interest.

Gary Goyke:

Yes.  Yes, yes. Oh, very definitely. I have found the tourism people, the business community, and it's very tough for them to say things about passenger rail in our state. Very difficult, they're afraid to in some cases. But they are very interested. So a couple of the magazines are going to cover the whole story from start to finish, and we'll take the discussion. So we're optimistic. And it is our duty and is our mission to keep promoting this in the best way that we can.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. We leave it there. Gary Goyke, thanks very much.

Gary Goyke:

Thank you. 


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