St. Paul Rail Project Would Benefit Empire Builder

A proposed $1 million rail project in St. Paul, Minn., would benefit the operations of Amtrak’s Empire Builder say Minnesota public officials.

The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission and Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority are urging the state legislature to fund the environmental analysis and engineering of a grade separation project in the St. Paul rail yards.

The project would ease freight rail congestion near St. Paul Union Depot, which is used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland train.

According to the county’s East Metro Rail Capacity Study, the east metro rail yard handles 10,000 cars per day, or 5 percent of the nation’s freight volume.

That represents 110 daily freight trains of Canadian Pacific, BNSF and Union Pacific.

County planners foresee that number growing to 160 daily trains before long, and they’re worried that any future commuter rail, high-speed rail or passenger rail service will have a tough time maneuvering in and out of the city on freight rail tracks.

Amtrak moved its St. Paul station stop from Transfer Road to the Union Depot in May 2014.

The UP/BNSF grade separation project would separate the Union Pacific Altoona lines from the four BNSF main lines.

BNSF, Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific have pledged $125,000 each while the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority will contribute $125,000.

Ramsey County and Minnesota Department of Transportation have also been in discussions with Amtrak about adding a second daily round-trip from Chicago.

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