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Milwaukee Alderman Hopes To Expand Amtrak Service To Foxconn

(WPR)---A Milwaukee alderman is pressuring the state to expand Amtrak service in southeastern Wisconsin with potential Foxconn employees as the focus.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is studying adding three more round trips a day on the Milwaukee-Chicago passenger rail line, bringing the total to 10.

Ridership went up 2.6 percent in the last federal fiscal year to about 829,000 people, according to the DOT.

At a briefing for a Milwaukee Common Council committee Thursday, DOT officials said expansion of the Amtrak-Hiawatha line may be "shovel ready" by August, but still take a few years to complete because about $200 million in rail and station platform improvements would be needed.

Increasing the number of trips to and from the Sturtevant stop will give Foxconn workers more arrival and departure options. There also may be shuttle buses from Sturtevant station to the Foxconn campus.

Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman said with the large Foxconn factory scheduled to be built this year near an existing Hiawatha stop in Sturtevant, Hiawatha expansion should be fast-tracked. 

"We don't have to talk about building new rail lines or adding massive bus service," Bauman said. "We have an existing public transportation infrastructure right at the front door of this proposed factory."

Bauman told news reporters he thinks many Milwaukee residents who get jobs at Foxconn would take the Amtrak to work. Or, Bauman said, northern Illinois residents would do the same on northbound trains.

DOT Passenger Rail Manager Arun Rao replied that he doesn't know if the process of expanding passenger rail to Foxconn could be sped up.

"I can describe the typical process and how long these things take. But since there's no federal funding program right now, there's no notice of funding availability, the timing and the process are just unknown at this time," Rao said. 

Rao said Illinois and Wisconsin would be counting on the federal government to pay most of the cost of rail upgrades.

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