Amtrak Operations to move to St. Paul Union Depot May 7

April 3, 2014

After the Afternoon Zephyr left St. Paul Union Depot on May 1, 1971, St. Paul Union Depot has not seen any intercity passenger service, until now.  After a major restoration, St. Paul Union Depot has again become a transportation hub serving local and intercity bus lines, the soon to be opened light rail line, and now Amtrak's Empire Builder.  Amtrak Train #8, the eastbound Empire Builder will be the last train to serve the Midway Station in St. Paul on May 7, and the westbound Empire Builder Train #7 will open Amtrak operations at SPUD that same evening.

Click on the article from the StarTribune for more information;

See you at SPUD!

Empire Builder Schedule Change - April 15, 2014

April 2, 2014

From Trains Magazine Newswire  ‘Empire Builder’ schedule lengthened to accommodate route congestion

Please note - the new schedule is published in the "Amtrak and the Empire Builder" schedule page on this site.

By Bob Johnston
Published: March 27, 2014

CHICAGO — The journey from the Pacific Northwest to Chicago is about to get three hours longer, on paper at least. Amtrak will modify the schedule of both the westbound and eastbound Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder west of St. Paul, Minn., effective April 15.
The change will account “for the freight train congestion and the condition of BNSF-owned infrastructure,” according to Jim Brzezinski, the train’s route director. “We will assess the ability of BNSF to dispatch the Empire Builder with better reliability on this schedule, with further schedule changes possible in June.”
Schedules between Chicago and the Twin Cities remain unchanged, though times are expected to be adjusted slightly when the train begins using St. Paul Union Depot “on a date to be announced.”
Eastbound train No. 8 from Seattle and train No. 28 from Portland will now leave those cities 3 hours earlier and maintain that schedule all the way to Stanley, N.D. Then an hour and 20 minutes of recovery time is added before the Empire Builder is scheduled to arrive in Minot, N.D. Another hour and 10 minutes lengthens the schedule from Grand Forks to Fargo, N.D., and the final 30 minutes of padding occurs between the crew change point of St. Cloud, Minn., and St. Paul.
The schedule change of westbound train Nos. 7 and 27 adds up to an hour and a half, split between Rugby, N.D., and Minot (35 minutes); Wolf Point and Glasgow, Mont., (20 minutes); and Havre to Shelby, Mont., (35 minutes). The changes reflect the pattern of minimum operating delays that Trains News Wire has been tracking since mid-December. A major drawback of the new schedule is that the eastbound train departs Whitefish, Mont., at 4:46 a.m., and the train will pass through Glacier National Park in darkness on all except the longest summer days.
Most of the time, however, the trains have suffered far more serious delays than are being projected on the new schedules. Eastbound into Chicago, the Empire Builder has been 3 hours late or less only 10 times in the past 60 days, and three of those arrivals were short-turned trains from St. Paul. During the same period, train No. 8 typically arrived between four and five hours late, making connections with only the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, scheduled to depart at 9:30 p.m.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari tells Trains News Wire that only connections to the Lake Shore Limited will continue to be allowed at Chicago until an assessment is made on the Builder’s reliability.
Westbound, connections will no longer be honored with the Coast Starlight at Portland, effective immediately. At Seattle, train No. 7 has arrived less than an hour and a half late only 4 times in the past 60 days. As a result, Amtrak still plans on using a sixth set of Empire Builder equipment, so the extra capacity those cars normally provide elsewhere will not be available.

March 24, 2014

USDOT report: More investments needed in transportation infrastructure

As much as $24.5 billion is needed per year to improve the condition of transit-rail and bus systems, according to theU.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) latest report on the conditions and performance of the nation's highways, bridges and transit systems.
The "2013 Status of the Nation's Highways Bridges and Transit: Conditions and Performance" report confirms that more investment is needed to maintain and improve the nation's transportation infrastructure, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release.
"We have an infrastructure deficit in this country, and we need to create more jobs – improving our roads, bridges, and transit systems will provide help on both fronts," he said.
Based on 2010 data, the report estimates all levels of government would need to spend between $123.7 billion and $145.9 billion annually to both maintain and improve the condition of roads and bridges alone. In 2010, federal, state and local governments combined spent $100.2 billion on that infrastructure, including $11.9 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars.
The report also finds that the nation's state-of-good-repair and preventive maintenance backlog for transit is at an all-time high $86 billion, and is growing by $2.5 billion each year. An additional $8.2 billion over current spending levels from all levels of government is needed annually to reduce the backlog over the next 20 years, USDOT officials said.
While some transit systems still are operating rail cars that are more than 30 years old, more than three-quarters of repair needs involve other facets of U.S. transit systems, such as rail stations, trestles and power substations, the report states.
Meanwhile, state and local governments are shouldering more than half the cost of annual investments to preserve and grow the nation’s transit systems, the report adds.

President Obama Proposes Historic Investment for Passenger Rail in Surface Transportation Program

February 27, 2014

In a visit to St. Paul’s restored Union Depot, President Barack Obama outlined an ambitious $302 billion, 4-year investment plan for America’s roads, bridges, railways, and transit. $19 billion of that will go towards rail, with another $72 billion directed to transit.

The President was in St. Paul to celebrate the renovation of Union Depot, which returned intercity passenger trains back downtown after more than 30 years. The restoration occurred as part of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, which provides funding to projects of regional significance that generate positive economic development. Thanks to the TIGER program, Union Depot is being transformed from a dusty, overrun old building into a modern regional transit hub.

And while $600 million for intermodal projects is a pretty big deal, it was dwarfed by the $302 billion surface transportation plan, which includes a one-time infusion of $150 billion in revenue from corporate tax reform.

The President’s plan includes $19 billion in dedicated funding for rail programs. That would mean almost $5 billion each year for high performance passenger rail programs, with “a focus on improving the connections between key regional city pairs and high traffic corridors throughout the country.”

There’s reason to be cautious: this Congress hasn’t been active at the best of times, much less right before an election. But it’s an amazing thing when the President of the United States pushes for passenger trains to be included as part of a comprehensive transportation program. If enacted, it would mean predictable, sustainable levels of funding for trains, and that allows Amtrak and the states to plan, to buy new equipment, and to make much needed investments in critical infrastructure.

Expect more next week. But until then, rest assured All Aboard Minnesota and NARP will be working to advance the rights of American passengers.

Source - Narp Press Release


February 22, 2014


We all know that Amtrak's long-distance trains have been threatened for some time and for a variety of reasons. Despite the many benefits these trains provide to the American public, they've been the subject of unending political attacks. 

One of the most effective arguments we can use with public officials is that the long distance trains provide people in small communities all across America with mobility. Whether it’s the Southwest Chief or the Cardinal or the Empire Builder, these trains are the only viable form of public transportation for literally millions of Americans.


The chairman of our board of directors, Bob Stewart, was recently in Garden City, Kansas, one of the communities to be affected if the Southwest Chief were to stop operating. During his visit there, Bob was approached by a nurse from St. Catherine’s Hospital. She told him that they have patients with medical problems for whom St. Catherine's does not have the appropriate facilities or expertise. Those patients are referred to bigger and better equipped hospitals in Kansas City or Albuquerque or Chicago. And, she said, they are often transported there on the Southwest Chief!

Medical patients turning to one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains for safe, comfortable and affordable transportation can’t be unique to Garden City. It must also be happening in other communities and on other trains.  And it’s a powerful argument to use with the politicians who are looking for excuses to shut down Amtrak’s long-distance network.


Do you have any personal knowledge of long-distance trains transporting people in need of specialized medical services from rural communities to big-city medical facilities? If so, please email me at [email protected], and I'll follow up with you to find out all the details so we can strengthen our case for the nation’s long-distance trains (you can also submit information anonymously online, if you'd prefer). Of course, your privacy will be respected and any information provided will be held in strict confidence.

As always, thank you for your advocacy of passenger trains and for supporting NARP’s and All Aboard Minnesota efforts in our common cause.

Content supplied by Narp

Amtrak Under Threat!

June 24, 2013

Please read the release from the National Association of Railroad Passengers, our national sister organization.  The US House has voted to dramatically cut Amtrak's funding, which could endanger trains like the Empire Builder - call your US House Rep today to voice your opposition!

House Appropriators Declare War on Trains

House Appropriators released a draft bill today that slashes Amtrak's budget by a third.  NARP responded immediately with a press release denouncing the proposal as unacceptable:

The National Association of Railroad Passengers announced that it will fight implementation of the House Appropriation Committee’s Fiscal Year 2014 transportation funding levels.  The draft bill, which the subcommittee will consider tomorrow, slashes Amtrak’s budget by a third, threatening the very existence of Amtrak.  The bill also fails to include funding for the High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program.  Not only does the bill include no new funding for the highly over-subscribed TIGER grants—a competitive, multi-modal program where rail has competed well—it rescinds $237 million in previously appropriated FY 2013 TIGER funding that is not yet obligated.
The House proposal denies state and local leaders the resources they need to develop the modern transportation network necessary for mobility and economic growth. It comes as economic experts and the International Monetary Fund criticize the U.S. for plunging ahead with austerity even as low interest rates make borrowing for projects unusually affordable, America’s unemployment rate remains unacceptably high, and the need for transportation infrastructure investment is widely acknowledged.
The House committee’s bill has just $950 million for Amtrak, a 29% cut from the final 2013 number [$1,344 million]. This includes a $350 million operating grant (21% below the FY 2013 level), and $600 million in capital (33.5% below FY 2013).


Success!! - National Train Day - St. Paul Union Depot

May 2, 2013

City-Amtrak_AcelaSincere thank you to all who stopped by our table on May 11 at National Train Day! We estimate we spoke with over 800 people. We truly enjoyed meeting and talking with all of you. Of course, we are truly heartened by your support for more intercity-city rail options, and that is what we are here for! Look for more information coming soon on our website and emails about our progress.

All Aboard Minnesota is a non-profit grass-roots organization dedicated to more and better passenger trains for the State of Minnesota and the surrounding region.