Midwest Interstate Rail Passenger Commission Annual Meeting Update

November 29, 2022

The Midwest Interstate Rail Passenger Commission (MIPRC) held its annual meeting in Indianapolis, IN Nov 16-18. MIPRC brings together state leaders from across the region on a bipartisan basis to advocate for passenger rail improvements. Formed by compact agreement in 2000, MIPRC's current members are Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota are also eligible to join. The main purposes of the compact are to promote, coordinate and support regional improvements to passenger rail service.

The meeting , through the Federal Railroad Administration and State DOT updates, demonstrates there are many plans in the upper Mid-west for expanded and new passenger rail services. Seven out of the eight (8) are planning new services including Minnesota! Brian Nelson from All Aboard Minnesota attended this meeting and has provided a summary report and observations of the meeting. The opinions expressed are Nelson's alone.

Overall, its an exciting time for passenger rail. Click here to read the report

Minnesota US Congressional Senators and Representatives to hold Amtrak accountable

November 9, 2022

Citing many Amtrak operational concerns, All Aboard Minnesota board members met with staff members of Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, and Representatives Betty McCollum and Dean Phillips. In letters sent to each of these offices, we outlined many service and operational issues experienced by passengers this year such as rampant equipment failures, and reduced numbers of coach and sleeping cars from previous years. The Empire Builder, for example, has run with one fewer coach and sleeping car all year which has caused the train to be almost constantly sold out. There are many instances of passengers reservations being canceled, and sleeping car passengers being bumped to coach accommodations.

There are almost 100 Superliner cars, the equipment that runs on most long distance trains, that are awaiting repair and maintenance. We see no evidence of a program in place to get these cars back in service. Nor, do we see any active effort to replace these cars, many of which were put into service in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

We have asked our Minnesota Congressional delegation to hold Amtrak accountable amidst record levels of funding per the Infrastructure Bill (IIJA Act) to run the national network properly. Representative McCollum's office sent a letter on our behalf to Amtrak Board Chair Anthony Coscia. You can read the letters we sent along with Representative McCollum's letter per the links below.

Additionally, Bob Johnston reporter for Trains Magazine, just published an excellent article on these issues entitled "Amtrak's Capacity Crisis." Link below.

All Aboard Minnesota Letter to US Senators and Representatives

Representative Betty McCollum's Letter to Amtrak's Board Chair

Amtrak's Capacity Crisis - Bob Johnston - Trains Magazine Article

WisDOT and MnDOT Hosting 2nd Twin Cities-Chicago Passenger Train Frequency Public Meetings - November 1 and 2

October 25, 2022

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) invite you to attend an in-person open house and presentation in La Crosse, Wis. or Winona, Minn.

Design plans for the project's improvement sites in La Crosse, La Crescent and Winona will be presented at the meetings in addition to the project's latest schedule and details on the work required at railroad sites to provide a second, daily round-trip passenger rail service with minimal delays.

Both meetings will present the same information. Before and after the presentation, exhibits and maps will be available. WisDOT and MnDOT staff and design engineers will be available to answer questions about the project.


All Aboard Minnesota provides input to MnDOT for updated state rail plan

September 8, 2022

As MnDOT works to update the state rail passenger plan, All Aboard Minnesota was invited to give our high level input on ranking the next state rail passenger corridors. The Federal Railroad Administration now requires that all state plans score and rank the proposed next rail corridors based upon criteria they have given to state Department of Transportaion Departments. We used that criteria, based upon what we have learned, assessed, and researched to provide our ranking and scoring input for MnDOT's consideration. We ranked six (6) corridors, based upon the route map published on the "Our Vision" page. The Twin Cities to Fargo route scored first, as an extension of the 2nd train frequency between the Twin Cities to Chicago, which may begin service as early as next year.

View our tab below which includes ranking for the six corridors and some context notes for the first two ranked routes. We welcome any comments or questions. Please contact us through this site. Thank you!

Click Here

Streets MN Podcast - Possibilities of Passenger Rail in Minnesota

July 1, 2022

Streets MN's Ian Buck interviews All Aboard Minnesota's Brian Nelson about the status and possible future direction of more passenger rail service for Minnesota.

Click Here

City of Anoka requests Amtrak stop

May 20, 2022

The City of Anoka has formally requested that Amtrak trains stop in their city. All Aboard Minnesota endorses this request. As two thirds of the Twin Cities metropolitan population lives in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs, a stop in the northern portion of the metro would make it easier for these residents to access Amtrak trains than St. Paul Union Depot. The current Northstar Commuter rail platform and parking lot could be utilized without additional investment we believe. All Aboard Minnesota supplied a support letter for the City of Anoka to Amtrak, posted below:

Support Letter

We are writing on behalf of our members, associates, partners and supporters to ask that you support the City of Anoka’s request to make Anoka a stop for Amtrak.

All Aboard Minnesota is a non-profit citizen advocacy group that represents more than 2,500 members, friends and supporters throughout the state that actively seek more rail passenger service statewide as a needed transportation option and which will economically benefit the communities served and the state.

We believe it makes economic and mobility sense for Amtrak to make a stop in the City of Anoka:

  1. Two thirds of the Twin Cities estimated population live in the City of Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs
    • A stop in Anoka is more geographically desirable for citizens of Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs than St. Paul Union Depot
    • All Aboard Minnesota has heard this issue many times from prospective and existing passengers, desiring a stop in the northwest part of the metro and the Minneapolis area that is more accessible than St. Paul Union Depot
    • A stop in Anoka could drive greater use of Amtrak trains because of this increased accessibility in a highly populated region of the state
  2. The existing platform and parking lot built for Northstar could be utilized for this stop
    • The existing infrastructure already in place would make for an ideal stop in Anoka. We understand the current platform is 450 feet long and could accommodate five cars
    • Accessibility from surrounding roadways is very good and we believe this existing Northstar facility could absorb additional Amtrak patronage without any additional expansion or investment
    • Metro Transit could coordinate the Empire Builder #8 stop in Anoka with existing Northstar service
  3. We are all believers that passenger rail drives economic benefits for the communities they serve. This additional stop would benefit businesses in Anoka and surrounding communities

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Best Regards,

Board of Directors

All Aboard Minnesota

MN Senate passes amendment to ban funding for Northern Lights Express (NLX) service

May 6, 2022

The MN Senate passed an amendment recently that would ban all state funding for the new Twin Cities to Duluth service, the Northen Lights Express (NLX). The House and Governors office are supportive, however. The House Transportation Committee included a proposal in their Transportation bill that would provide $85M to gain a larger federal grant to complete construction on the line from the Twin Cities to Duluth. We sincerely hope the differences between the House and Senate Transportation bills can be worked out in committee and NLX funding will be in the final version of the Transportation bill.

All Aboard Minnesota, in coordination with NLX Alliance, the Rail Passengers Association, and Midwest High Speed Rail, all sent out action alerts to our members and friends, asking everyone to call their legislators to support NLX funding. The All Aboard Action alert is posted on our Facebook page, link here

The NLX Alliance also issued a press release on the Senate ban - click here - NLX Press Release

All Aboard Minnesota urges Minnesota House and Senate Transportation Leaders to fund passenger rail expansion

May 3, 2022

Recently, All Aboard Minnesota sent communication to Minnesota House and Senate Transportation Leaders to fund passenger rail expansion. As the session winds down and final decisions are being made, All Aboard Minnesota is doing everything we can to get funding for more passenger rail this session. The current session is scheduled to end May 23. You can do your part to contact your Minnesota House Representative and Senator, and the Governor's office. More contact information can be found in this site, in the "Get Involved - Your Voice" tab. The letter we sent is below:

Hello -

On behalf of All Aboard Minnesota's 2,500 members and friends throughout the state, we urge the House and Senate to include in the final Transportation Omnibus bill the $26M in funds as outlined in HF 3160 and SF 3682 to study expanded and new passenger rail service in Minnesota.

These bills provides funds for MnDOT to study (preliminary design, construction, environmental impact, and economic benefits in accordance with the state rail plan ) four key elements:

  1. Extending the 2nd train frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago to Fargo/Moorhead on a daytime schedule.
  2. New passenger train service from the Twin Cities south to Northfield, Albert Lea, Des Moines, and Kansas City connecting Minnesotans directly with Amtrak service to the west coast.
  3. A dedicated passenger main line that will be needed between the St. Paul and Minneapolis downtowns that will allow the 2nd train to reach Minneapolis, (current terminus St. Paul) also serve as a vital link for the Twin Cities to Duluth (NLX) service to serve St. Paul (proposed current terminus Minneapolis).
  4. A maintenance facility to service new passenger rail trains.

Please note that in order to apply for Federal Matching Grants now available in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 appropriated by Congress, these studies will need to be completed. Competition is fierce for these funds. If Minnesota doesn't act quickly, another state will reap the rewards. If we don't act quickly, our taxpayers will effectively be subsidizing intercity passenger rail in another state. The completion of these studies will advance the Minnesota State Rail Plan significantly.

These new routes, based upon existing infrastructure, potential ridership, and population served offer the greatest assurance for success that will serve about 70% of the state’s population (excluding the Twin Cites metro area). Many Minnesotans, college students, families, elderly, and people with disabilities either cannot or don't want to drive or fly. New passenger service also offers the communities they serve and the state a three to one economic return (for every dollar invested, three are returned.)

Highways and airways can no longer serve the transportation needs of all Minnesotans. We urge you to fund this legislation.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us.

Brian Nelson

All Aboard Minnesota

Lots of great information shared at the All Aboard Minnesota Spring Meeting 2022!

May 2, 2022

The All Aboard Minnesota spring 2022 meeting was a great success and we received many very positive comments. The great news from MnDOT of course was that the 2nd train might begin rolling early next year! The meeting was recorded and you can view by clicking on the link below. Thank you to all who attended and support more passenger rail in Minnesota and beyond. We will keep you posted as developments occur.

All Aboard Spring Meeting 2022

All Aboard Minnesota Testimony for the House Capital Investment Committee hearing 3-8-2022

March 8, 2022

All Aboard Minnesota testified on behalf of HF 3160 which would provide $26M to study extending the 2nd train frequency between the Twin Cities to Chicago to Fargo/Moorhead, new passenger rail service from the Twin Cities to Des Moines and Kansas City, a dedicated passenger main line between the downtowns of Minneapolis, and St. Paul, and a new maintenance facility to serve these routes and the Northern Lights Express to Duluth.

The testimony is below, along with a letter we sent to the committee for their reference. We will keep you posted as this bill advances, and its Senate companion SF 3632.

AAMN Capital Investment Committee Testimony – March 8, 2022

Re- HF3160

Overview -

  • Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members, my name is Brian Nelson and I represent All Aboard Minnesota, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of fast, comfortable, frequent intercity passenger train services within and beyond Minnesota.
  • You should all have received our one-page fact sheet, our regional passenger rail map, and letters in your committee packets.
  • I’m here today to testify in favor of HF 3160, which would provide $26 million to help build out the state rail passenger plan.
  • HF 3160 would fund two key routes that connect rural Minnesota communities to regional and metropolitan centers. These routes would allow the flow of dollars and people to and from these communities that are currently only accessible by auto.

What does this bill do?

  • You can see on the map we provided there are two routes for added and new service.
  • Last year, the Legislature passed funding to complete the 2nd daily train between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, and Chicago. HF 3160 would extend this route from the Twin Cities to Fargo-Moorhead.
  • HF 3160 would also provide funding for a study for new passenger service between the Twin Cities, Des Moines, and Kansas City.
  • These routes were chosen because they offer the most potential, as defined by ridership and population served, infrastructure already in place, existing private investment, and cost effectiveness.
  • Finally, HF 3160 would allow MnDOT to study a dedicated main line between Minneapolis and St Paul downtowns, something railroads are likely to ask for because of capacity demands. It would also provide funding for a maintenance facility to service the two new routes and the forthcoming Northern Lights Express.

What are the benefits to Minnesota? -

  • These routes would provide new or expanded rail service to more than 30 MN communities within 25 miles of the routes and serve about 70% of the state’s population.
  • Passenger rail provides a mobility option for a variety of audiences. Winter driving conditions can be treacherous along I-94 and I-35 in winter especially for elderly already hesitant to drive in these conditions. Even in some of the worst winter conditions, the train will be running.
  • The route south from the Twin Cities to Des Moines and Kansas City would offer a direct connection for Minnesotans to Amtrak trains serving St. Louis, Denver, cities in Texas, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Currently, passengers must first connect to these services in Chicago.
  • These two routes would not just move Minnesotans to their destinations. People from Fargo, Des Moines, Omaha, Denver, and Kansas City would travel to our state, bringing with them dollars to spend in our communities.
  • Typically, for every one dollar invested in passenger rail service three dollars are returned to the communities served. This is especially important for small and medium sized communities throughout the State.
  • We estimate Union Pacific has already spent $300 million on track and signal improvements on the southern Minnesota route, and BNSF has spent at least $325 on the Twin Cities to Fargo route. This provides a tremendous discount to the state for expansion of passenger rail service.
  • Finally, we have seen other states have expand passenger rail service with high ridership numbers in Michigan, Illinois, Virginia, and North Carolina.
  • We would like to thank Rep. Hausman for authoring this legislation and Chair Lee and the committee for hearing this bill today.
  • Thank you for your time and I stand for any questions.

Letter provided to the committee

Dear Chair Lee and Ranking Member Urdahl,

We are writing on behalf of our members, associates, and supporters to ask that you support funding for HF 3160 and include it in the committee’s Bonding Bill.

All Aboard Minnesota is a non-profit citizen advocacy group that represents more than 2,500 members, friends and supporters throughout the state that actively seek more rail passenger service statewide as a needed transportation option and which will economically benefit the communities served and the state.

A total of $26 Million is requested to accomplish the following in this biennium:

  1. Enable MnDOT to study extending the 2nd train frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago to Fargo/Moorhead.
    • Projected ridership on a daytime schedule in this corridor estimated to be 100,000 new riders per year
    • Will serve and connect many greater Minnesota communities such as St. Cloud, Little Falls, Detroit Lakes, and Wadena to the Twin Cities
    • Provides freer connectivity of people between urban and rural areas, generating a positive return on investment for the communities served and the state
    • BNSF Railway has invested at least an estimated $325M in this route since 2015, which has reduced the state’s portion of the investment needed for more passenger rail service

  1. New MnDOT service study for passenger service between the Twin Cities, Northfield, Owatonna, to Des Moines, and Kansas City.
    • Projected ridership on this corridor estimated to be over 190,000 riders per year
    • Directly connects Minnesotans to Amtrak trains serving St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Francisco without connecting through Chicago first, drastically reducing travel times
    • Connection of metropolitan areas like Des Moines, Kansas City, and Omaha and many rural communities in between to Minnesota, providing freer flow of people and greater economic impact
    • Union Pacific Railroad has invested an estimated $300M recently in this line, which means the line is better prepared to provide passenger service than ever before and will reduce the state’s investment cost

  1. Allow MnDOT to study a dedicated passenger main line between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis to enhance capacity for these two routes and Northern Lights Express, and a maintenance facility.

Why is it important to fund HF 3160?

  1. Provides the backbone of a statewide public transportation network benefitting college students, families with children, seniors, disabled, and those who can’t drive or fly, as a mobility option. Provides “all weather” transportation especially in treacherous winter conditions
  1. Provides economic stimulus, jobs, local investment, tourism, and a positive return on investment for Minnesota
  2. Utilizes public-private partnerships with freight railroads and Amtrak, minimizing capital expense and operating costs using existing infrastructure. Investment in passenger rail benefits freight operations, speeding goods and services. Both UP and BNSF have invested hundreds of millions in their infrastructure
  3. Connects Minnesota to rural communities and metropolitan areas like Fargo/Moorhead, Des Moines, Kansas City, and Denver, further benefiting our economy
  4. Provides economic competitiveness with other states in the upper Midwest such as Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan which have made significant investments in passenger rail

Minnesota deserves a multi-modal, all-weather transportation network that serves all of its citizens with the options they need. Highways and airways can no longer do this alone. The Minnesota legislature needs to act and provide funding for more passenger trains. Our economic vitality is at stake.

More information can be found on our site: www.allaboardmn.org. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Best Regards,

Board of Directors

All Aboard Minnesota