FASTER, PLEASE. I hope Wisconsin officials aren't counting unhatched chickens.

Wisconsin officials are confident enough their high speed rail plan will be funded that they're already meeting with contractors to build it, the Milwaukee Business Journal has reported. The state's department of transportation has applied for a piece of the $8 billion President Obama inserted into last year's stimulus bill to begin running fast trains between Milwaukee and Madison.

"We are aggressively planning the work so the corridor can be operating by Jan. 1, 2013," said John Oimoen, the agency's project manager for the line.

More than 200 companies participated in a Jan. 5 conference on the subject at Waukesha County Technical College to learn about contracting opportunities.

The high speed proposal is to operate as an extension of the current Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Amtrak service. It would use Canadian Pacific tracks from Milwaukee to Watertown, Wis., then use state-owned tracks from Watertown to Madison. The state-owned portion of the line is currently in a dilapidated condition and will require major upgrades. Capacity would also likely need to be added to the CP-owned portion of the line.

This is a project in which I have more than a passing interest.

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