Eau Claire (WQOW) - A major milestone is happening to expand transportation methods from Eau Claire to the Twin Cities.
The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition has worked for many years to establish a passenger train service from Eau Claire to the Twin Cities and with the help of a private rail developer, they soon can.
The coalition reached out to Corridor Rail Development Corporation, a Chicago-based company, to help bring the passenger train to life.
To do that, Corridor agreed to invest $200,000 into a study that would look into what infrastructure improvements were needed in order for the train to safely operate.
Developers plan to have the train run on tracks that already exist in Eau Claire owned by Union Pacific Railroad.
"We have a lot of things going for us in Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley, but we could use some transportation improvements," said Scott Rogers, chair of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition. "As a way to attract talent to the area and have more accessibility, it's good to have this kind of alternative. We've been seeing a rail passenger service develop around the country, and so to be economically competitive, this will be important for our future."
Corridor's Executive Chairman James Coston said the train will include three coach cars, one business class car, a cafe, and two locomotives on either end.
He said not only will the train be able to hold more than 300 people, but they are also researching how to make it social-distancing friendly.
"Passenger trains are particularly flexible in terms of how you do an interior configuration. We've been reviewing some terrific designs from Europe and Asia that are being implemented where there are non-standard seating arrangements, allowing for different sizes of parties to be seated together but to be seated apart from other parties," Coston said.
Coston hopes the study can start next week and be completed within a few months.
In the meantime, Corridor will begin refurbishing the train cars at a facility in Baltimore.
Coston anticipates the service will be good to go in 2022 and connect Eau Claire to Saint Paul Union Depot in Minnesota.