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City of Eau Claire to consider creating rail commission

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Railroad on Putnam 01-11-2021

Railroad tracks in Eau Claire on Putnam Street where the passenger rail service would potentially run through

EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - The City of Eau Claire is interested in forming a group that would oversee the implementation and creation of a new passenger rail service.

On Tuesday night the Eau Claire City Council will vote on a resolution about supporting the development of the Chippewa-St.Croix Rail Commission.

Since this passenger rail service would travel through multiple jurisdictions, the city hopes the commission could include other county and municipal government agencies in the Chippewa Valley in addition to Eau Claire city officials and the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition.

The potential passenger train would connect Eau Claire to Saint Paul, with potential stops in Menomonie, Baldwin, Hudson, and Stillwater.

Interim City Manager David Solberg said the duties of the commission would include applying for grants, coordinating zoning laws, and assisting with public-private partnerships.

He adds the rail service could be as impactful as the interstate highway system and hopes the train could eventually go as far as south as Madison, Milwaukee, or even Chicago.

"It allows a savings of time," Solberg said. "You can work while you're on the train.  It helps promote inclusivity.  It can help promote equity with access to higher paying jobs in metropolitan areas, providing access not only just for businesses and employees, but also tourism, recreation, commerce."

Solberg said they don't know the cost of the project yet because it depends on the number of stops and that train stations cost money to build.

But, they would save money by using already existing tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad.

The council will have a public discussion on the resolution Monday night at 7 p.m. Click/tap on this Webex link to virtually attend the meeting. You might need to download the app before using it.