Minnesota passenger rail proponents are asking the state to provide funding to complete planning for a second Chicago-Twin Cities passenger train.
The planning process is being lead by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which is studying what infrastructure improvements are needed for the additional service as well as what capital costs are necessary.
At the present time, Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder is the only passenger train between Chicago and the Twin Cities.
At its last meeting, the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission unanimously approved a resolution in favor of a $23 million general obligation bonding request for passenger rail service across the state.
A second Chicago-Twin Cities train was identified in the 2015 MnDOT State Rail Plan.
“Amtrak’s passenger rail ridership is increasing, we had positive results from our feasibility study, and we hear from many of our constituents that a second train should be added immediately,” said Janice Rettman, chair of the MNHSR Commission and a Ramsey County commissioner. “Many local partners have already come forward to fund the current phase of work, but we need state funds to start the next phase and qualify these projects for possible federal funding.”
State matching funds would be necessary for Minnesota to qualify for those federal funds.
The rail commission is also backing a $1 million state funding request for rail improvements in St. Paul. The money would be spent to create a grade separation near a railroad yard to ease freight congestion.
That would benefit Amtrak by providing more fluid operations at St. Paul Union Depot.