Bill Draves, president, Learning Resources Network (LERN), addressed the club about plans for extending rail service via passenger train from River Falls and Hudson, on an Eau Claire to St. Paul route.
 
“The Hudson-River Falls train is based on a whole new business model involving little or no taxpayer money, just private investment,” Bill said. “The train operator will be a private, not publicly supported, train company, running on privately owned Union Pacific tracks.”
The tracks are already in place, and the engines and cars have been acquired for the project.
 
“It's great news for Hudson-River Falls,” said Bill. “It’s important for us (River Falls) to be on the train line and support it. And, it’s really important for people here to say they support the train.”
 
The biggest users of the railroad will be students who travel.
 
Noting that people often think of train transportation as government-run, Bill said that in the past year, it has shifted dramatically to the private sector and is moving it ahead. This exciting new model was pioneered in Florida and is also planned for a new Texas train project, featuring a high speed, high capacity commuter train.
 
With a route that runs four times a day between Eau Claire and St. Paul, River Falls needs to get in on the action by putting its name on the Hudson station, and effectively putting River Falls “on the map” and on the train route. The route will also extend to other cities beyond St. Paul.
 
A shuttle bus will run from River Falls to Hudson. The location of the station in Hudson has not yet been determined.
 
The largest ridership group will be students, who travel from UW-River Falls, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical Institute, UW-Stout, and UW-EauClaire to St. Paul.
 
“This is not a train to nowhere,” said Bill. “This is about connecting and part of a regional effort to create a network. Transportation is essential for economic success for any community – certainly for ours.”
 

Be a part of history

Bill asked club members to imagine 1919, when Dwight Eisenhower was talking about interstate highways that would span the country. Some thought it was crazy, but people around the nation will be looking at this as a model for other trains as well.
 
Find out more: Mark your calendar for Wed April 24, 7 p.m., River Falls Public Library, where you can hear  Dave Christianson, former MnDOT train official and a lead person representing the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition. You can find out more and get your questions answered.
 
“Dave is one of the most knowledgeable people in the country about trains,” said Bill. “Come ask your question. Come hear someone who is part of this history-making transition to train travel. We are excited and lucky to have him speak, and guide us in getting the train to Hudson-River Falls!”
 
Watch a one-minute video about the project.
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