Second Train Between Chicago-Twin Cities Gets Green Light

Minnesota governor signs bill to match funding from Wisconsin, Amtrak to start work on establishing a second passenger train between Chicago and the Twin Cities. Photo by Otto Vondrak. 

Second Train Between Chicago-Twin Cities Gets Green Light

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Amtrak could begin operating a second daily train between Chicago and Saint Paul, Minn., starting in 2024, after Minnesota decided to give $10 million to help kick-start the service. That money will be combined with funds from Wisconsin and Amtrak and matched with grants from the federal government that were awarded last year. 

Presently, the only train between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities is Amtrak’s Empire Builder. Officials say the service is expected to carry 124,000 passengers annually. Approximately $40 million will be spent in track and signal improvements to rail infrastructure in southeastern Minnesota that will benefit both passenger and freight rail.

“This is a great day for passenger and freight rail, and a great day for Minnesota,” said Great River Rail Commission Chair and Hastings City Councilmember, Mark Vaughan. “The members of this commission, representing 18 local governments, have long advocated for the expansion of passenger rail service in our state. We are extremely grateful to the Minnesota legislators and the Governor who worked so hard to pass this important legislation.”

The next steps for the project are to reach an agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding between the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois; and Amtrak and Canadian Pacific, the host railroad. Once the memorandum is approved by all parties it will be submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration to begin the process of accepting federal grant dollars. The Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Transportation will lead the process of establishing the agreements, and final design and construction of the project.

“Thanks to Gov. Walz, a bi-partisan Legislative coalition and the communities working with the Great River Rail Commission, Amtrak is ready to take the next steps to make the TCMC Second Train a reality as soon as possible,” said Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn. “Together with our partners at MnDOT and the Wisconsin DOT, this bill unlocks federal funds that will enable all of the Amtrak cities on the route to have more travel options that are comfortable, reliable and environmentally friendly.”

This article was posted on: June 30, 2021