9.2.10

PATH DEPENDENCE. Destination: Freedom evaluates the Midwestern high speed rail projects.
The surprise in the region is the $810 million grant to develop a new corridor between Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s capital, Madison. The last passenger train ran from Chicago to Madison in 1971, and it bypassed Milwaukee, running on the historic C&NW route through Beloit and Janesville. Former Republican Governor and Amtrak Chair Tommy Thompson talked about Madison service during his tenure in office, but it appears that the current Democratic administration in Washington plans to deliver the service that the Republicans failed to provide. The present governor, Jim Doyle, and Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacci support expansion of passenger rail in their state.
What good are passenger train advocates who don't read Passenger Train Journal? The last passenger train to Chicago indeed quit running on 30 April 1971, but it ran on the historic Milwaukee Road route through Janesville and Zenda. (The less we say about Amtrak's Zenda Zephyr, the better.) The Madison project is the first (and second, when 75 minute trains return to the C&M) stages of a speeded up service connecting Chicago with the Twin Cities. There's an extensive history of the Madison corridor in Issue 241, as well as a condensed version of several Cold Spring Shops posts describing Wisconsin's project.

The article also weighs in on the Ohio service.
The other new service planned under the program will be the 3-C (Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati) corridor in Ohio, which is slated to receive $400 million. The line last saw a passenger train in the late 1960s, and the only city pair within Ohio that is connected by rail today (Cleveland-Toledo), has service only in the middle of the night. Clevelanders can go to Chicago, New York or Washington, D.C. at inconvenient hours, but have no conveniently-scheduled trains. Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, supports the 3-C initiative, while his Republican predecessors opposed it. Strickland faces a hard challenge in his bid for re-election, and a rail line that will take people from one place in Ohio to another is a “deliverable” for which he can claim credit. Ohio is also a “battleground” state, which was crucial in 2004. If Democrat John Kerry had won the state, he would have ousted George Bush from office.
Let's leave the politics aside, 'kay? The Amtrak network that emerged in 1971 for the most part preserved the best of the passenger train service that existed in late 1970. (But the Chicago and North Western, which repeatedly trimmed its schedules by telling the regulatory commissions the Milwaukee Road's parallel service was an adequate replacement, managed to drop all its trains, including the Green Bay service, and that kept the Overland Route free of passenger trains, despite its potential as a high speed line.) Here's how longtime train speed analyst Donald M. Steffee characterized that Ohio service.
A lone Beeliner [Budd RDC] round trip which connects with nothing at either end is the remnant of the once-fine service between Cleveland and Cincinnati. This run, with cities such as Columbus, Dayton, and Springfield as intermediate points, would rate Trans Europe Express service if it were operating in Europe.
Trains 28, 8 (June 1968): 26. Cleveland to Columbus and Cincinnati on the Interstate Highways is not a toll road. Whether the passengers deserted New York Central or New York Central discouraged passengers, there was no base for the service in the late 1960s, and little interest in writing it into the Amtrak legislation.

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