A second Amtrak route from St. Paul to Chicago seems feasible, desirable and could soon be up for environmental review.
A new study conducted by Amtrak (for Minnesota and Wisconsin’s DOTs, and La Crosse County, Wisconsin, which is about halfway along a route between the two cities) found that the train run “would have a robust public involvement component and provide eligibility for federal funding.”
According to Minnesota’s Brainerd Dispatch:
The purpose of the second daily train is to provide improved eastbound reliability and increased train frequency. The study includes an assessment of schedules, ridership, revenue, infrastructure investments, operating costs, and equipment needs associated with adding a second daily train between Minnesota and Chicago. The study assumes the second round-trip train would use the same route as the current Empire Builder service between Chicago and St. Paul with the addition of a Milwaukee Airport Rail Station stop.
Cost estimates for the additional daily trip, which would leave Chicago in the morning and depart St. Paul in the afternoon, are around $95 million. The study suggests that ridership could outnumber that of the current run (which leaves St. Paul in the a.m.) by about 50,000 passengers annually. Here’s a look at the whole study.
Another recent study, out of the University of Illinois at Chicago, used the in-the-works upgrade on the Chicago-St. Louis freight corridor to build a model to examine the possible benefits of running faster passenger trains on routes Amtrak currently shares with freight trains.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.