MILWAUKEE – When trains roll into the Milwaukee Intermodal Station downtown, passengers walk into a dark, half-century old train shed. The platforms are showing their age and the ramps are too steep for wheelchairs.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is fully supporting an upgrade.
“To say this very, incredibly successful Hiawatha line should not have improvements, I think just shows a hatred for anything that’s rail related,” Barrett told TODAY’S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.
Opponents contend the plans are too grand and the price, which could be as high as $18 million, is too much. The building is expected to include a mezzanine spanning five tracks and a system of elevators and escalators. The new train shed will accommodate existing Amtrak lines and future high-speed trains.
County Executive Scott Walker wants to derail the plan.
“They were trying to get it in under the radar by really not telling people about it, and hoping by the time they got done with it, nobody would notice. But, obviously people have,” Walker said during an interview with WJFW-TV.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation plans to start construction in October. Project supervisors took questions at a public information session on Tuesday.
“This structure has reached the end of its useful life,” said John Oimoen, who oversees DOT passenger rail projects. “It’s about 45 years old right now.”
Some at the meeting support the new train shed.
“Inside the shed needs to be lighter, brighter, better ventilation, especially if we’re going to have more trains,” said Liz Wessel, a frequent rail passenger.
Others call it a waste.
“Seems like a travesty, in the final days of the Doyle administration,” said Andrew Kubiaczyk of Milwaukee. “It really does seem like an act of arrogance.”
The DOT dismisses claims that they are trying to start the project before a new governor is elected.