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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Depot stimulus funding for a boarding ramp

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Stimulus funding that the Tomah, Wis., Amtrak Station is slated to receive will be used to construct a handicap boarding ramp, the Tomah Journal reports.


Tomah officials received word in June that the Tomah Amtrak Station would be receiving $509,000 in stimulus money that they hoped would be used to make improvements to the aging depot. After learning that the funds will be used to construct an Americans With Disabilities Act boarding ramp, some are questioning the cost of such an improvement.


“I think it is frustrating,” City Administrator Jim Bialecki said. “There has been profound interest for improving the railroad site.”


The Tomah Amtrak Station is one of eight stations in Wisconsin, and it has seen ridership increases this decade. The depot is also a potential stop for a proposed high-speed passenger rail service between Chicago and the Twin Cities — via Tomah, La Crosse and Winona, Minn.— that could begin in the next five years.


The city hopes to develop on property near the railroad depot, and the construction and price tag of a handicap platform has some officials concerned. The depot sits on a 61-acre property owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, which has been in contact with Tomah city officials about selling the property along both sides of Superior Avenue in the center of the city. Development of the railroad property is a priority of the city’s Long Range Planning Committee, which is working with Canadian Pacific Railway and Vandewalle & Associates, a firm out of Madison hired by Canadian Pacific to market and plan development of the property.


The platform to be constructed will be a 550-foot, eight-inch concrete platform. Bialecki said he hopes a decision would be made on whether or not the station would be moved to the north side of the tracks before permanent improvements are made.


“We are hoping that they will wait, but it is Amtrak’s to do with what they wish,” Bialecki said. “If they make these improvements at that cost and we have substantial future developments where the depot would be moved, that money would all be down the drain.”