Under a state plan that would take advantage of $8 billion in federal stimulus money, Brookfield would be one of three stops on a high-speed passenger rail system between Madison and Milwaukee, part of a larger Midwestern effort to connect Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago.
City officials last month submitted a pre-application proposal to the state that outlines the costs and benefits of a rail station, and city officials could find out whether Brookfield could qualify for federal money by the end of the year.
Cost, benefits of new station
Under the proposal sent to the Department of Transportation, building a new station - land acquisition, impact studies and actual construction included - would cost $17.9 million.
The proposed station would be located in the Village Area along Brookfield Road near River Road. Construction costs, which would be covered by federal stimulus funds, would include a new station, a 300-plus-stall parking lot and train platforms, said Dan Ertl, the city's director of community development.
A 2006 study by the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative said values for properties near a Brookfield high-speed rail station would increase by $69 million to $103 million, compared to $65 million to $95 million for Madison.
A city study put that figure at closer to $30 million, but Brookfield's number could be smaller because the rail initiative group used a larger geographic area for its projection, Ertl said.
The same 2006 study also said a Brookfield station would add more than 900 jobs to the community.
Applications due in October
The state is taking communities' individual plans, assembling them and submitting them to the federal government starting this month. The deadline for submissions for the Milwaukee-Madison segment is Oct. 2, and the state could hear back by the end of the year, said Ron Adams, chief of the Department of Transportation's Railroads and Harbors section.
If the state is awarded stimulus money for the rail system, it would then ask the communities to confirm their interest in receiving money, meaning the Common Council would have to vote whether to accept the grant, Ertl said.
Adams said if the federal government awards the money, the state's goal is to have the system operating within three years. The state would upgrade existing tracks and warning devices - lights and gates - in most of the corridor, although new tracks would be built between Pewaukee and Watertown.
Adams said the train would probably make three round trips per day.
Ertl pointed out that aside from submitting materials to the state, the city has not committed to the construction of the station via Common Council action.
Owner sees potential benefit
Rich Conley of Metropolitan Development, which has built two mixed-use buildings in the Village Area in recent years, said he would like to see a station in the neighborhood.
"I think it would probably give the Village a nice little shot in the arm," he said.
Conley said he could see the Village turning into something similar to what you see in the Chicago suburbs, where restaurants, shops and multifamily residences have sprung up near commuter rail stops.
Conley's residential buildings, including Brookfield Junction, remain popular, but the economic slump is keeping retailers and other users away, he said - something that might be helped by the addition of a rail station, he said.
"People want to live down there," he said.
BY THE NUMBERS
proposed stops on the high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison - Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown
round-trip cost for a Milwaukee-to-Chicago ticket on the Hiawatha line; the cost for a Milwaukee-Madison trip is expected to be similar
estimated top speed of the rail line; current Amtrak service runs about 80 mph
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