New Chicago-Twin Cities Train Seen as Possible Within 2 Years if Funding Falls Into Place

Additional Amtrak service could be operating within two years but it faces a big if.

Proponents of the service need to find $25 million in funding from the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin to make the service happen by that timeline as well as land another federal grant.

Wisconsin recently received a $12.6 million federal grant to be used to help pay the startup cost for the service. Amtrak has agreed to pay another $5 million.

The service would operate on the same route of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder between Chicago and St. Paul.

The federal grant came from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Restoration and Enhancement grants program.

The $25 million from Wisconsin and Minnesota would be used as the local match for another federal grant, this one for $50 million, that the Great River Rail Commission is seeking through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has asked the state legislature for $10 million to pay for track and signal improvements.

That authority, if approved, would match $10 million in bonding authority from Wisconsin.

The Chicago-Twin Cities train would make all of the same stops made by the Empire Builder but add the Milwaukee’s airport and Sturtevant, Wisconsin, stops that are skipped by Nos. 7 and 8.

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