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: Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Best Regards,

Board of Directors

All Aboard Minnesota

New Passenger Rail Legislation

February 15, 2022

Two new significant passenger rail bills have been recently introduced for the 2022 Minnesota Legislature. Rep Alice Hausman introduced HF 3160, which contains $26M for MnDOT to study two corridors: 1. Extending the 2nd Train Frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago to Fargo/Moorhead on a day time schedule, and 2. The Twin Cities to Northfield, Owatonna, Faribault, Albert Lea, Des Moines, and Kansas City. This route is known as the "Spine Line" and would connect Minnesotans to the California Zephyr service to San Francisco, and the Southwest Chief service to Los Angeles. The bill also contains funds for MnDOT to study the dedicated passenger main line between St. Paul and Minneapolis, which MnDOT has long sought, and the study of a maintenance facility at the former Amtrak Midway station in St. Paul. If enacted, this bill would move the MnDOT state rail plan along nicely. AAMN has long been propents of all aspects this bill covers and is excited that work could begin on the "Spine Line." We will keep you posted as this bill progresses.

The other major passenger rail bill is HF2682/SF2826 which was introduced in the House by Rep. Mary Murphy, and in the Senate by Senator Jerry Newton. It asks for $85 million from the General Fund to match and complete the capital expenditures to implement the Northern Lights Express from Minneapolis to Duluth. We will keep you posted on this bill as well.

All Aboard Minnesota Testimony for the MN House Transportation and Finance Policy Committee

February 13, 2022

The House Transportation and Finance Policy Committee held a hearing on February 3, inviting the public to testify about the impact of the Infrastructure Bill would have on the states transportation system. All Aboard Minnesota was invited to testify about the impact the bill could have on expanded passenger rail in the state. Click Here to view the short video testimony. These are exciting times and we will keep you posted. Thanks for watching!

Amtrak Service Cuts

January 17, 2022

Recently Amtrak announced service cuts across the entire system beginning in late January and lasting until late March 2022. This is largely due as we understand to the Covid impact. If there are any updates on this situation, we will keep you posted.

Trains magazine just published the reduced service schedule for the national network, long distance trains: (Here is a link to the full Trains Magazine article outlining the implications of these cuts: Click Here )

Table showing days of operation for Amtrak long-distance trains

Amtrak pledges support for CP-KCS combination

January 7, 2022

Happy New Year to all of our members and friends! Some good news to start off the new year; yesterday Amtrak and the Canadian Pacific railway released this joint press release in support of thier new partnership with the acquisition of the Kansas City Southern railway. The subheadline of the press release states "CP commits to support Amtrak service expansions in two U.S. regions." This CP support includes the 2nd train frequency between the Twin Cities to Chicago! The press release goes on to say: "CP has committed to maintaining its industry-leading role as a host railroad and to cooperating with Amtrak to implement its long-term strategic vision to bring new and expanded intercity passenger rail service to more North Americans, including: • Increased frequency on the Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee. • Extending Hiawatha Service from Milwaukee to St. Paul, Minn., to create a second round-trip on the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago corridor."

This is great news that the partnership between Amtrak and the newly formed railroad is off to a great start, and passenger service in the midwest will be expanded. You can read the full press release here: Amtrak pledges support for CP-KCS combination

US House has passed the Infrastructure Bill!

November 6, 2021

Now that the US House has passed the Infrastructure Bill, it will go to President Biden and signed into law. This is one of the most comprehensive infrastructure investments the US has seen in probably more than 60 years! Roads, bridges, waterways, electric vehicles, broadband, transit, and Amtrak will receive billions of dollars over the next ten years or so. Amtrak will receive $66B and it funds all business units of the railroad.

Here are the specifics of the $66 billion in funding for Amtrak:

· Northeast Corridor (NEC) Grants – $6 billion – for procurement and deferred maintenance on the NEC.

· Fed-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail – $36 billion

· NEC set-aside – $24 billion

· Funding for capital projects to repair, replace, or rehabilitate assets to improve performance and address maintenance backlog.

· Amtrak National Network (NN) – $16 billion – to modernize and upgrade the NN, including all 15 long-distance routes and 28 state-supported routes.

· Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) – $5 billion – competitive grant program to improve the safety, efficiency and reliability of intercity passenger rail and freight rail; leverages local and private sector funds.

· Railroad Crossing Elimination Program – $3 billion – competitive grant program to eliminate railway-highway grade crossings.

· Restoration & Enhancement Grants – $50 million – grant program to initiate, restore and enhance passenger rail service; eligible projects include restoration of discontinued service, additional frequencies, extension of existing service, and establishment of new service.

These funds will make new routes much easier to implement. This is more money than Amtrak has ever received in it's 50 year history. We will keep you posted on how this all goes forward. These are exciting times for more passenger rail in the US!

Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers Fall Meeting Announcement (WisARP)

October 14, 2021

All Aboard Minnesota members and friends are invited to the annual fall membership meeting of the Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers, on Saturday, Oct 23. You can either attend in person, or via zoom registration link below. Dan Krom from MnDOT and Arun Rao from WisDOT will give updates about Minnesota and Wisconsin passenger rail projects. Zoom registration link directly below, and full agenda with location and other details is posted below the registration announcement.

*After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Click here for the full agenda and other details

The Second Daily Passenger Train between the Twin Cities and Chicago will roll! We are calling it the Twin Cities Hiawatha

August 23, 2021

Governor Walz signed the Minnesota Transportation budget on Saturday June 26, which includes a $10M state appropriation to fund what we are calling, the Twin Cities Hiawatha- 2nd Train frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago. This is a major win for us and all Minnesotans! The state appropriation will leverage a $32M federal grant for infrastructure work in Minnesota to enable the 2nd Train and provide the first step in realizing the MnDOT Passenger Rail Plan.

Again, We want to thank all of our members, friends, supporters, affiliated organizations and colleagues who contacted the Governor and their legislators to make this happen.

This would not have been possible without your active support!

So, what are the next steps and when will the train actually run? The first step is to put the process in motion to actually receive the grants which will happen this fall. The next and most major step is to then hire contractors to complete the infrastructure work which in Minnesota is largely in Winona and La Crescent. This infrastructure work is expected to take approximately two years. The final step will be to procure equipment, locomotives and coaches. There is a video posted in the Our Vision, Twin Cities to Chicago page of what the new train could look like. The Twin Cities Hiawatha is scheduled to begin service sometime in 2024. We will keep you posted as the project develops.

We issued a press release on June 26, which you can read in our News and Media section, Press Releases. There was good coverage in the Twin Cities and even the Fargo Forum published an article!