Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Wisconsin’

Hiawatha Expansion Price Tag Set at $195M

February 14, 2018

The price of expanding Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee has been put at $195 million by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

A WisDOT official told the Milwaukee Public Transportation Review Board that is how much adding three roundtrips to the route would cost.

The board is pushing for expanded service in order to serve Foxconn Technology Group’s planned Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, facility, which could employ up to 13,000 people. The facility is being built near a Hiawatha station in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.

Arun Rao, WisDOT’s passenger rail manager, said the $195 million figure includes $10 million for a second platform at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport station and $49 million for two projects at or near downtown’s Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

Amtrak currently operates seven roundtrips between Chicago and Milwaukee with much of the funding coming from grants provided by WisDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In fiscal year 2017, Hiawatha Service trains carried more than 829,000 passengers. Studies have projected that adding additional trains would boost ridership past 1 million.


Sturtevent Sues Amtrak over Unpaid Bill

April 19, 2017

Sturtevent, Wisconsin, officials have launched litigation against Amtrak over what the village describes as unpaid fees for repair work done on the station last year.

The village owns the station and is seeking $45,780.56 plus interest, costs, disbursements and attorney fees.

The work involved replacement of the steel bottoms of four glass shelter buildings at the train station, which had rusted over the years

Village Engineer Jeff Seitz said Amtrak leases the depot from Sturtevent and is responsible for 85 percent of its maintenance costs but not for capital improvements.

Amtrak contends the repair work was a capital improvement not a maintenance matter and has declined to pay for the repairs.

“Despite repeated demands, defendants have failed and refused to pay the remaining balance due,” the lawsuit says.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that the rail passenger carrier is aware of the lawsuit and will respond in court.

Seitz said the lawsuit was expected because the village and Amtrak had been talking about the project, including price quotes, for about a year before the Village Board directed him to get the work performed and then file a claim.

He said it is the first such dispute the village has ever had with Amtrak. Sturtevent officials hopes that a judge will be able to come up with a better definition of what is maintenance and what is a capital improvement at the depot.

The Wisconsin city near Racine is served by Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service trains.

Amtrak to Close Columbus WI Ticket Office

February 11, 2017

Citing the usual reasons, Amtrak is poised to close its ticket office at Columbus, Wisconsin.

Amtrak 4Amtrak has pointed to an increased number of passengers buying tickets online as well as Congressional demands for more efficient operations. The office will close on May 1.

Columbus is served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.  Other tickets offices on the train’s route that have closed in the two years include Winona, Minnesota; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Glenview, Illinois; and Rugby, North Dakota.

Hiawatha Expansion Comment Period Extended

November 21, 2016

The comment period on a plan to expand Amtrak service between Chicago and Milwaukee has been extended to Jan. 15.

Hiawatha 2The decision to expand the comment period was made by the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin, which help pay for the service and want to expand it from six to 10 daily roundtrips.

The expansion was recently the subject of an environmental assessment conducted by the two departments in conjunction with the Federal Railroad Administration.

That study has drawn criticism from several Chicago suburbs on the route of the Hiawatha Service trains because it proposes building a siding for freight trains to wait while Amtrak and Metra commuter trains pass by.

Suburban officials and residents fear the siding will be used by freight trains for long waits and may aggravate traffic congestion.

Scott Speegle, the passenger rail communications manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the three agencies involved in creating the environmental assessment decided to extend the comment period because of the initial public response that it received.

“The volume of responses and comments we got from individuals showed a lot of people were interested and it was a good idea to extend the period,” Speegle told

The assessment can be viewed on the WisDOT website

Hiawatha Designated Peak, Off Peak Service

October 19, 2016

Amtrak is designating Hiawatha Service trains as peak and off peak. The carrier said in a service advisory that the distinction on the Chicago-Milwaukee route is being done to reduce overcrowding on the busiest trips.

Hiawatha 2Weekday Trains 330, 332, 337 and 339 have the highest ridership and are being designated as peak trains.

Passengers traveling on off-peak trains will pay lower fares, although the advisory did not say what the fare deferential would be.

Amtrak noted that 10 of its 14 weekday trains — and all weekend service — is designated as off-peak.

In a related development, Amtrak has increased the ticket price for monthly and 10-ride passes. However, Amtrak said pass buyers will continued to receive a discount.

Discounted fares are also available for students, veterans, senior citizens, military, AAA members and children under 12.

EIS Find No Impact for Added Hiawathas

October 8, 2016

Expanding Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service would result in no significant environmental impacts, a study released this week determined.

Most of the improveHiawatha 2ments planned for the route used by the Hiawathas would be constructed within the existing railroad right of way, the study said.

The draft environmental impact statement was conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration and the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Public comment on the study is being accepted through Nov. 15 and hearings have been scheduled for Oct. 27 in Milwaukee; Nov. 1 in Chicago; and Nov. 2 in Glenview, Illinois.

Amtrak has proposed adding three additional Chicago-Milwaukee roundtrips on a route that current hosts seven daily roundtrips plus the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder. A portion of the route also has extensive Metra commuter train service in Chicago.

The passenger carrier has indicated that ridership of the Hiawatha Service has been rising and some trips feature standing room only conditions.

Metra owns the tracks used by Amtrak between Chicago and Rondout, Illinois; while Canadian Pacific owns the route between Rondout and Milwaukee.

CP has proposed building a 2-mile siding that has drawn opposition from some Glenview officials and residents who fear that CP freight trains might sit on that siding for long periods of time.

Late Night Hiawatha Service to Continue

September 7, 2016

The trial period of late Saturday night Hiawatha Service will continue.

Hiawatha 2Amtrak said it is extending indefinitely the operation of Train 343, which leaves Chicago at 11:10 p.m., and Train 344, which departs Milwaukee at 10:40 p.m.

Nos. 343 and 344 will replace Trains 329 and 330, which will continue to operate on weekdays. Amtrak said a Thruway Bus leaving at 6 a.m. will replace Train 330 on Saturdays.

Amtrak said in a news release that the Saturday late evening trains have shown higher ridership during the trial period than the early morning trains they replaced.

The Hiawatha Service is funded by the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin.

About 800,000 passengers rode Hiawatha trains last year. Intermediate stops include Glenview in Illinois and Sturtevant and Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport in Wisconsin.

Because Amtrak ticket offices on the route are closed before the departures of Trains 343 and 344, passengers may purchase tickets onboard the train without penalty.

Amtrak’s Quik-Trak kiosks are available at all stations except Glenview. More information about the Hiawatha Service route is available at

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.