A new era of rail travel is upon us – Bruce McClellin

Amtrak says 70 percent of Americans have homes in 11 emerging megaregions, including the Great Lakes region. No wonder Amtrak wants to bring passenger service to Madison, with a later hopeful expansion to the Twin Cities, connecting communities that currently lack service. This should be effective and efficient.

Hiawatha is Amtrak’s busiest route in the Midwest. Passengers from Chicago to Milwaukee were close to 900,000 in fiscal 2019 before the pandemic reduced them. Travelers in fiscal year 2022 were climbing back.

Wisconsin’s historic route was more extensive, and Amtrak aims to make it so again. At least two Wisconsin cities plus Madison are seeking permission to build fully funded Hiawatha stations with federal grants. Other communities in Wisconsin and Illinois may still do the same.

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Sun Prairie is the key city for a second station in Greater Madison. One commenter from Illinois described an Amtrak station as an “economic engine” for the community. Amtrak hopes to run Hiawatha trains from Chicago to a new terminal in Green Bay and from Chicago to the Twin Cities via two Wisconsin intercity routes.

America’s megaregions may be entering a new golden age. The Hiawatha brand was established during the golden age of railroading in the 20th century.

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