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Public program April 24 for proposed passenger train

A local coalition is pushing for a passenger train to run from the Twin Cities with stops at Stillwater, Hudson, River Falls, Baldwin, Menomonie and Eau Claire. Photo courtesy of William Draves1 / 3
Ann Schell2 / 3
Dave Christianson3 / 3

Submitted by William Draves

A passenger train, with a stop in Hudson, is looking more likely, according to the Organizing Council for the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition. A public program to present the latest news, plus garner more local River Falls support, will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24 at the River Falls Public Library.

Kicking off the program will be Dave Christianson, the lead organizer in working with the railroad companies. Christianson, a former MnDOT train official, is now Executive Director of the OCWCWRC, which is heading up the effort. He will share news of the support of Union Pacific railroad, which owns the tracks; and the involvement of Chicago-based Corridor Rail Development, which will supply the locomotive and train cars.

Also on the program is Ann Schell, Senior Planner for the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in Eau Claire. She will talk about plans for intergovernmental cooperation in support of the train, as well as a new business concept called "value added" financing.

"The biggest and most exciting development is a new business model that centers around the private sector and involves little or no new taxpayer support," said River Falls resident William A. Draves, co-chair of the local St. Croix Valley Rail Group, which is hosting the public program. "A private railroad operator will run the trains on Union Pacific tracks, making the finances more feasible and the timetable shorter. We know the ridership is here. Just the college kids from the Twin Cities attending UWRF and other higher education institutions on the route make ridership a non-issue."

More than 70 people support the passenger train, reports Draves. In addition, the Hudson-River Falls train has received the support of the Pierce County Board of Supervisors.

Those serving on the local group's steering committee include Bonnie Carroll, Mel Bowman, Erin Tomlinson and Sean Downing of River Falls; Trevor Kodesh and Jim Bour of Hudson; and Edna Early of New Richmond.

The April 24 program was first announced at the River Falls City Council meeting, and at the River Falls Rotary meeting last week, where over 20 Rotary members signed up to support the train. The program is free and the public is invited to attend.

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