WISCONSIN state officials are backing proposals to extend the Chicago - Kenosha Metra commuter rail service to Milwaukee, using 53 km of existing freight line. Funding is now being sought for a detailed investigation, following a preliminary feasibility study which estimated the capital cost at about US$140m and annual subsidies at around US$4m. The line would serve eight new stations in southeastern Wisconsin, with 10 weekday trains and a limited weekend service, carrying a million passengers a year. This is expected to rise to 1·3 million by 2020.

Metra is due to receive in June the last of 177 gallery cars ordered from Morrison-Knudsen in 1992; these are being built at the former Pullman plant in the south of Chicago. The authority is pushing ahead with a mid-life car overhaul programme, which will absorb much of its $150m capital budget this year. During 1998 Metra plans to rebuild 38 cars and 11 diesel locos.

  • Two of Amtrak’s six daily Chicago - Milwaukee Hiawatha trains will be extended to west to Watertown, with effect from April 13, as part of a 90-day programme to ease congestion during a motorway reconstruction project. The service is being funded by the state of Wisconsin at a cost of $1·4m. The Hiawatha service saw ridership up by 6·1% between October and February, following a 12·8% jump in in the year to September 1997. o