Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Minnesota’

Don’t Look for Amtrak in South Dakota Anytime Soon

October 18, 2017

Just two of the lower 48 states in the continental United States are not served by Amtrak.

Wyoming once hosted three Amtrak routes and sees a periodic detour of the California Zephyr.

But South Dakota has never seen a scheduled Amtrak train and the state had lost intercity rail passenger service before Amtrak began on May 1, 1971.

Officials in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have discussed bringing Amtrak to their city, but it is not a high priority they say due to the cost.

Sam Trebilock studied bringing Amtrak to Sioux Falls seven year ago. A planner for the city, Trebilcock said he doesn’t know how much it cost to lure the passenger carrier to the state’s largest city, but it would be expensive.

“I think because of the expense of it, it’s something that isn’t on the front burner or anything,” he said.

Much of the expense of bringing in Amtrak involved track renovation. “You can’t just put passenger rails as I understand it onto a freight rail corridor,” he said.

Another hurdle is showing there is a market for the service. “You’d need to be able to show that you’re going to have the ridership it’s going to take to make that work,” Trebilcock said.

Sioux Falls would need to be linked to a destination that would matter to riders, such as Minneapolis or Omaha, Nebraska.

Although transportation officials in Minnesota studied providing Amtrak service to within six miles of Sioux Falls, it was not a high priority.

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Public Comment Sought on MSP-Duluth Plan

May 3, 2017

The Minnesota Department of Transportation continues to work with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to reinstate intercity rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota.

A public comment period is currently under way following the release of a Tier 2 Project Level Environmental Assessment of the Northern Lights Express Project.

The project would culminate in the implementation of a “higher speed” service between the two cities.

Written comments are due by May 24.

The proposed 152-mile service would have intermediate stops at Coon Rapids-Foley, Cambridge, Hinckley in Minnesota, and Superior in Wisconsin.

Service is projected to begin by 2020 if funding can be obtained and capital work completed. The cost of launching the service has been estimated at between $500 million and $600 million.

Further information is available at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/nlx/

Amtrak previously provided service over this route between April 16, 1975, and April 7, 1985. At one time the service operated between Chicago and Duluth as the North Star.

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

April 11, 2017

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.

Minnesota Trial Rail Service Proposed

March 20, 2017

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a $3 million trial rail passenger service between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The service was part of his supplemental budget proposal submitted last week to the state legislature.

The rail service would operate for six months for the purpose of assessing whether existing service would be expanded to St. Cloud from downtown Minneapolis.

If the trial service become permanent, it would mean that the Northstar commuter rail service would serve St. Cloud.

At present, the service operates between Target Field in Minneapolis to Big Lake, Minnesota.

The trial service would involve one trip from St. Cloud to Target Field in the morning and a return trip in the evening. Passengers could connect at the Target Field station to the Green and Blue light-rail lines.

Amtrak is expected to provide the St. Cloud service. The national rail passenger carrier currently operates on the route with its daily Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

The tracks on the line are owned by BNSF.

In a statement, Amtrak thanked Dayton “for recognizing the importance of passenger rail, and exploring how Amtrak can further connect St. Cloud with the Twin Cities.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the trial commuter service would not affect the Empire Builder.

The Northstar system was originally intended to serve St. Cloud. But the service now ends at Big Lake because of a lack of federal funding to help pay to develop the Big Leg-St. Cloud segment.

Since Northstar service began in 2009, Big Lake and St. Cloud have been connected by bus service.

Dayton’s budget proposal also includes $850,000 for an engineering study to update a 2010 study of engineering costs and projected ridership between Big Lake and St. Cloud.

The Northstar service would end in St. Cloud at the existing Amtrak station.

Minnesota Set to Start 2nd Train Study

September 7, 2016

The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission is set to begin a feasibility study of a second Amtrak train between Chicago and St. Paul, Minnesota.

MinnesotaPraveena Pidaparthi, project manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said the study will look at how a second train would affect freight operations of the host railroads and determine cost estimates for any track improvements needed to accommodate the additional train.

The $600,000 study will take a year to complete. “We do intend to have a public meeting toward the end of the study because we’ll have more information,” Pidaparthi said. “But we’ll be open to getting comments throughout the study.”

Amtrak conducted a study in 2015 that recommended a second train between Chicago and the Twin Cities. The only service between those cities is the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Once the study is completed, Minnesota officials will conduct an environmental impact statement. Funding for that study has yet to be approved and the EIS is expected to take 18 months to complete.