The state Department of Transportation selected the Department of Administration Building, 101 E. Wilson St., as the site of Madison's high-speed rail station Thursday.
The DOT was weighing the site with the Department of Health Services building, 1 W. Wilson St., on the other side of Monona Terrace.
Chris Klein, DOT executive assistance, says the Administration building had a few advantages over the Health Services building. It's closer to Madison's government east parking ramp, which is slated to be rebuilt and expanded.
"It's right across the street from government east parking structure, so that was key and one of the most common requests of the public in those workshops [held last week]," Klein says. The garage could provide bike storage, including long-term storage, Klein says. Also, Wilson street east of the Terrace has better access to buses.
And the Health Services building is less accessible to disabled and, because it's listed on the historic register, would be harder to expand.
Adding a train station to the building is not expected to displace many of the state employees now working inside. A memo sent out to workers in the building reads, "First, our building will retain its function as a state office building as well as being a rail station. While the station has not been fully designed yet we do not anticipate any significant, long term impact on employee access or parking. There will, of course, be some disruption during construction but that should be primarily on the first floor. The train station itself is envisioned to be an addition to the back of the building."
DOT will hold another workshop later this month on the station, to get public input on design elements, Klein says. Then in September, after some renderings have been drafted, more public hearings will be held to refine the ideas. Construction on the station is expected to begin in early 2012, with the first trains running in 2013. Madison Ald. Marsha Rummel, whose district the Administration building is in, is thrilled about the possibilities both for new development and to fix nagging urban design problems.
A public market is also being considered at the site of the government east ramp and Rummel is excited about this and other development around the Terrace. She hopes the project will provide an opportunity to fix the busy, confusing intersection at John Nolen Drive and Blair, East Wilson and Williamson streets.
"Can we look at moving the rail for a central park?" she wonders. "I don't know that we can, but it's a lifetime opportunity that we all said we were waiting for."
The possibilities seem both endless and exciting: "I just hope to leverage every opportunity I can get from high speed rail."