Amtrak photo

GREEN BAY — A long-proposed passenger rail line from Green Bay to Milwaukee could eventually become a reality after a $500,000 planning and development grant was awarded to the project, Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced Wednesday.

Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac could have new stations along the proposed route.

In all, five new routes in Wisconsin were selected as priorities for passenger rail expansion and will be receiving $500,000 each in planning and development grants for a total of $2.5 million statewide. 

Last January, Kaukauna Mayor Tony Penterman signed on to a letter, along with six other Fox Valley city leaders, to push for an expansion of Amtrak’s passenger rail service up to Green Bay.

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act created an initiative for Amtrak to identify and develop new corridors, and Amtrak has proposed three daily round-trips from Chicago to Green Bay with its Hiawatha line, which currently connects Chicago and Milwaukee.

“This extension of Amtrak’s passenger rail service would allow for residents from Green Bay and the Greater Fox Valley Region travelling to Milwaukee or Chicago a safer alternative to an already congested I-41 highway system,” Penterman said.

(CLICK TO READ THE LETTER)

Up through at least the 1960s, residents could take the train from Kaukauna to Milwaukee and beyond from the depot on Draper Street, but service was discontinued decades ago.

“Passenger rail helps people get to work and school safely, boosts tourism and recreation, and grows our local economies, and I am proud to deliver funding to help expand it in Wisconsin,” Baldwin said in a news release. “I voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to move our economy forward and get Wisconsinites where they need to go efficiently and safely, and I am excited to see these plans for passenger rail move forward.”

The Corridor ID Program is a comprehensive intercity passenger rail planning and development program that will help guide intercity passenger rail development throughout the country and create a pipeline of intercity passenger rail projects ready for implementation.

Each selected Corridor will be granted $500,000 for eligible activities related to the initiation of a grantee’s Corridor development efforts including the development of a scope, schedule, and cost estimate for preparing a service development plan.

Through the Corridor ID Program, the following projects will receive funding:

Milwaukee to Green Bay: The proposed Corridor would connect the existing Hiawatha service between Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI with an extension to Green Bay, WI. Senator Baldwin submitted a letter of support for the project, which can be found here.

Milwaukee to Chicago: The proposed Corridor would provide improvements to the existing Hiawatha service between Milwaukee, WI and Chicago, IL by adding new frequencies. Senator Baldwin submitted a letter of support for the project, which can be found here.

Milwaukee to Madison to Eau Claire: The proposed Corridor would connect Milwaukee, WI to Minneapolis, MN through Madison, WI and Eau Claire, WI. The proposed Corridor would provide new service on an existing alignment. Senator Baldwin submitted a letter of support for the project, which can be found here.

Eau Claire to Twin Cities: The proposed Corridor would connect St. Paul, MN to Eau Claire, WI. The proposed Corridor would provide a new service on an existing alignment.

Chicago via La Crosse to St. Paul: The proposed Corridor would initiate a new daily round-trip between Chicago, IL and St. Paul, MN to complement the existing Amtrak long-distance Empire Builder, with an extension to Minneapolis, MN. Senator Baldwin submitted a letter of support for the project, which can be found here.




By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.