Minnesota Department of Transportation

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March 25, 2021

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Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago passenger rail project open for comment through April 9

Presentation of second daily round trip and other project details available online

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation are seeking public input on proposed intercity passenger rail service improvements for the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago corridor.  

A recorded presentation is available here, and includes information on the anticipated project schedule, service improvements and proposed railroad work.

“Increasing capacity and reliability on the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago passenger train route will create economic growth in corridor communities while providing a safe and reliable transportation alternative and benefitting local freight system,” said MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “Passenger rail service is also essential to an equitable transportation system – increasing access to jobs, colleges and communities along this critical Minnesota corridor.”

“The importance of intercity connectivity and travel options cannot be overlooked when considering regional transportation,” WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said. “The Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha as well as the Amtrak Empire Builder in 2019 were operating at or near capacity during peak travel seasons and forecasted demand is growing. As the population ages and more and more young professionals and businesses consider moving to our states, the need for increased transportation options is vital to grow local economies and improve the quality of life. This project leverages the existing rail corridor and passenger rail service to significantly improve the value of this transportation option across the state. This not only serves major Midwestern cities, but many rural communities along the route.”

Currently only one train a day connects the major Midwestern cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee and Chicago and the smaller urban and rural communities in between. The one daily round-trip schedule and capacity constraints, limits options for regional travel by rail.

The Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Passenger Rail Project will maintain and improve the existing 411-mile rail corridor currently used by Amtrak Empire Builder and Hiawatha trains by adding a second, daily round trip along the route. In addition to business and leisure travel, the project also provides direct benefits to freight transportation. Its primary benefit, however, will be to provide residents of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois convenient access to jobs, cultural attractions, top universities, and world-class healthcare. The TCMC will help to better connect smaller urban and rural communities with the economic epicenters of the region of Milwaukee, the Twin Cities and Chicago.

The project also provides for infrastructure upgrades including:

  • Improvements to railroad track, at-grade crossing, signal and communication infrastructure in Winona, Minn.; La Crescent, Minn.; and La Crosse, Wis., to allow freight trains to bypass passenger trains and reduce delays.
  • Renovations to interior space at the former Amtrak Midway Station in Saint Paul to serve as a crew base, layover and commissary facility if deemed necessary. 

Pending project approvals and funding availability, construction could begin in 2022 with service starting in 2024. 

In addition to the presentation, other project details, including the project map, are available at wisconsindot.gov/Pages/projects/multimodal/tcmc.aspx. Please note: If you are unable to access the presentation and need a printed copy, contact Kia Her at Kia.Her@dot.wi.gov, (608) 267-7350, or via Telecommunications Relay Systems (Dial 711).

The public is asked to submit comments via the online comment form at mndot.gov/passengerrail/tc-mil-chi and wisconsindot.gov/Pages/projects/multimodal/tcmc.aspx by April 9, 2021. Comments may also be mailed to: Attention Arun Rao, P.O. Box 7913, Madison, WI 53707.

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