APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Amtrak could be coming to northeast Wisconsin.

The key word is ‘could’ though as it’s very early in the process. On Thursday, city leaders from Appleton, Green Bay, Kaukauna, Menasha, Neenah, Fond du Lac, and Oshkosh announced they submitted a letter of interest to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to take part in a study that would look at building an Amtrak rail line that connects Green Bay and Milwaukee.

“This isn’t a letter of commitment this is a letter of interest because we want to be part of that conversation,” said Appleton mayor Jake Woodford.

There would be stops in Appleton, Fond du Lac, and Oshkosh.

Communities all across the country have also expressed interest in the program and FRA officials must choose which communities will ultimately get the rail line.

The study is part of the FRA’s Corridor Identification Program. The FRA will use several pieces of criteria to determine which communities are best suited for a new Amtrak line such as ridership, capital requirements, trip times, anticipated public benefits (an important addition to the calculus), the level of readiness of the operators and the community to accept Federal funds and existing support from operators and host railroads.

In conjunction with the FRA, selected communities will develop a plan for what Amtrak service would look like in their community. The FRA would provide federal monetary assistance for the projects. Mayors Local Five News spoke with said it’s too early in the process to know how much local municipalities would have to provide monetarily for railroad development.

The Corridor Identification Program is part of the Biden’s administration’s infrastructure law. The law sets aside $1.8 billion for the Corridor Identification Program.

“We’re a crucial economic hub, we’re a generator of economic activity for the state and (this would) provide another means of transportation for our residents to move between communities to larger metros,” said Woodford.

“There’s so much commuting that takes place between Green Bay and Fond du Lac and all the other communities so to offer another alternative to get people off of highway 41 and offer another way to get from Green Bay to Milwaukee,” said Green Bay mayor Eric Genrich.

An Amtrak official told Local Five News that there haven’t been passenger trains in Northeast Wisconsin since the 1970s. However, he said an Amtrak line that connects Milwaukee and Chicago is one of the region’s most popular routes, averaging just under 900,000 passengers per day prior to the pandemic. Both Woodford and Genrich said this makes extending the lineup to Green Bay make a lot of sense.

“Every reason that somebody would be driving on I-43 or I-41 or I-94 is a reason they could be riding an Amtrak train, it could be to visit family and friends it could be to do business,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

“Milwaukee is one of the more popular lines that they have within the Amtrak system and I think this is a natural extension of that,” said Genrich.

Magliari said that trains help people save gas, avoid having to pay tolls in states that require them, and avoid traffic jams in the big cities.

Both mayors told Local Five News that it’s too early in the process to know how a railroad project would get funded if Northeast Wisconsin ultimately gets selected as one of the communities that will get a new Amtrak line.