Minnesota Legislature Approves Legislation to Zero Out Funding of MnDOT Passenger Rail Office

Legislation pending in the Minnesota legislature would remove funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Passenger Rail Office, which some believe could threaten work toward establishing a second Chicago–Twin Cities passenger train.

The departments of transportation of Minnesota and Wisconsin have been studying creating the train to supplement service provided by Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Amtrak Nos. 7 and 8 provide the only intercity rail service in Minnesota.

The rail office sought funding of $900,000, which it would use for planning work for the proposed second train.

If the funding is not provided, the office would no longer be able to lead planning work for the second Chicago-Twin cities train or work on any other proposed passenger rail projects in the state.

The planning work is also being funded by the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority and the state of Wisconsin.

Trains magazine reported that funding for the passenger rail office could be channeled through a bonding bill, but the majority Republican legislature has not favored funding passenger rail in recent bonding bills.

Earlier, 84 Republican legislators wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao urging her to refuse $900 million in funding for a light rail line that was to be provided by the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton requested $1 million in bonding for rail projects that includes up to $500,000 for the second phase of a train study.

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