Eau Claire loses out on high speed rail

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EAU CLAIRE (WEAU) -- You won't any high speed trains running through Eau Claire any time soon. The Federal Railway Administration announced Wednesday the Twin Cities to Milwaukee high speed rail line will run through La Crosse, and hug the Mississippi River, rather than heading through Eau Claire.

And that decision is leaving members of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition upset.

Coalition member Ned Noel says the coalition is upset about a number of things including how Minnesota handled the process of picking which route to move forward with.

Supporters have worked for years to bring high speed rail to the Chippewa Valley. Wednesday’s announcement that the line will go through La Crosse, comes as a big blow.

“I think it's a big mistake, I know a lot of people that love trains and would ride it, I know I would. My family would, we don't even have enough buses here,” Eau Claire resident Nancy Ihle says.

“This is a significant transportation project that we wanted for the Eau Claire area, not only to provide travel options but for economic development purposes, and so this is something that's actually a setback to the community at this time,” Noel explains.

Ned Noel says to add insult to injury, Minnesota Department of Transportation leaders left out a key planning phase, he says they didn't hold any public information meetings for locals to comment on which line they preferred.

“So the coalition was upset that a whole series of public information meetings for people not only in Wisconsin but in Minnesota, were not held. We're concerned because this sets a bad precedent for the future of other passenger rail projects,” he says.

As it stands now, Minnesota is leading the high speed rail project that will cut straight through Wisconsin. Noel says it's a huge change from two years ago when the state was sitting on more than $800 million to build a line from Milwaukee to Madison.

“It seems kind of contrary that you have another state planning for the public in Wisconsin. So that's upsetting,” Noel tells us.

Noel says he still hopes for a commuter rail line between Eau Claire and the cities, but that's a ways off into the future.

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