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'Best news we could have gotten': City leaders react to train development

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Posted at 6:03 PM, Dec 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-07 19:03:43-05
  • Train service to Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton, and Green Bay took a step toward becoming reality
  • Federal planning money was awarded for the route, according to U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D - Wisc.
  • Acceptance into the federal program was an essential first step toward possibly launching the train service, said Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich

There has not been passenger train service to northeast Wisconsin in more than 50 years, but history might come full circle.

A train from Chicago that currently makes a final stop in Milwaukee, could be extended north to make stops in Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, and Appleton before making a final stop in Green Bay if the idea becomes reality. It is a possibility NBC 26 has reported on since January.

The federal government has awarded $500,000 for planning for the route as part of the Corridor ID program, according to Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.

Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich said acceptance into the program was an essential first step toward potentially seeing the service in Green Bay, and he was excited to see the Green Bay route selected.

"...[W]e wouldn't be able to actually have that service restored without getting into the program..." Genrich said.

Fond du Lac City Manager Joe Moore said, "At this point in the process, it is the best news we could have gotten."

“If we're successful in extending the Hiawatha line, it will provide an exciting travel option to people of all ages, something that will connect us to cities around the state and the country," Moore said in a statement.

Appleton's Mayor Jake Woodford also reacted to the development.

"I’m pleased to see that there is money moving forward to study this concept because there’s a lot of questions and we’re going to need to work together to get answers to those questions..." Woodford said.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's application for the route, final planning and construction could stretch into 2030.

Factors in that timeline include collaborating with the "host" railroads that own the tracks, and when funding is allocated for projects, said Lisa Stern, chief of railroads and harbors for WisDOT, in a previous interview with NBC 26.