Quarter 2 2023 Newsletter

May 23, 2023

In this issue:

  • Historic and game changing investment for passenger rail in Minnesota!
  • All Aboard Minnesota to celebrate 10 years as a 501 (C) (3)
  • St. Paul Union Depot Train Days June 3-4

The Minnesota legislature has just passed a truly historic and groundbreaking transportation bill which tremendously improves the passenger rail scene in Minnesota! After decades of only Empire Builder service, Minnesota will see two new trains roll in the coming years, the most since 1985!

1. The Minnesota House and Senate Transportation Conference Committee included in the final Transportation bill $195M to fully fund the Northern Lights Express (NLX) service between Minneapolis, and Duluth.

This money allows the state to apply for a federal match which will provide all the construction needs to enable four round trips a day running at 90mph on Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway tracks.

The money also allows MnDOT to buy into the new Midwest Passenger Car Pool, which features the new Siemen coaches now beginning operation on other routes in the Midwest. These new cars could run on NLX, as well as the new 2nd Train between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Once all the funding is secured, the construction will take approximately three years to complete.

The service will be competitive with drive times, and new stations will be constructed in Coon Rapids (which will also serve as an Empire Builder stop to serve the northwest metro area), Cambridge, Hinckley, Superior, WI and Duluth. An estimated 700,000 are expected to use the service annually. The last time trains ran between the Twin Cities and Duluth was 1985.

2. The 2nd Twin Cities to Chicago train is now fully funded!

The Transportation bill provides operational support funding with $1.8M in 2024, and $3.2M in 2025 for the service which leverages a federal grant. The infrastructure funding was put in place through a $10M state grant last session, which also matches a federal grant. The operational funding was the last piece of the puzzle to get in place, so it seems that all signals are green!

Wisconsin has already committed the funding necessary. The 2nd train could begin rolling as early as this fall, but all construction and infrastructure upgrades will not be completed until mid 2025. As we understand it, Amtrak has named this new train the "Great River Route Service." We will definitely keep you posted as we hear more.

3. The Transportation bill includes $4M for MnDOT to study the St. Paul to Fargo/Moorhead passenger rail corridor.

This study will provide a comprehensive view of the needs of the corridor, such as recommendations for the Northstar Commuter rail service between Minneapolis and Big Lake, and also identify needs for perhaps new long distance passenger rail between St. Paul and Fargo.

All Aboard Minnesota has long advocated for St. Paul to Fargo daytime passenger rail service, and there is strong support from online communities along the route. The long-distance service we propose is on the Empire Builder route between St. Paul, St. Cloud, and Fargo. We will keep you posted as this study develops.

4. Your voice makes a difference!

We are truly grateful for all of our members and friends that have contacted legislators not only this year but in years past advocating for more rail passenger service. We have been told that over the years, the conversation has changed as awareness has grown in the legislature about the positive impact passenger rail can provide for Minnesotans!

Yes, there are those that do not support passenger rail in the legislature, but this year, legislators broke through and provided historic funding to make NLX and the 2nd train possible. Both of these new services will build out the MnDOT state rail plan and provide new passenger rail service for hundreds of thousands of people, a real game changer! Your voice helped to make all of this happen, and we are truly thankful. Citizen advocacy works!

5. Save the date and Let’s Celebrate!

2023 officially marks 10 years for All Aboard Minnesota as a 501 (C) (3) organization! This event is planned for Saturday October 14 during the lunch hour, and we will provide a light lunch and an exciting program! It will be free for all of our members and friends. As details emerge, we will certainly keep you posted. We could not have achieved this milestone without your generosity, activism and support. We are very grateful to all of our members, friends, colleagues, and partner organizations. We hope to see you there, stay tuned!

6. St. Paul Union Depot celebrates Train Days on June 3-4, with an emphasis on steam!

All Aboard Minnesota will be there both days; stop by and talk with us. There is a full description of this years event on the events page on this site.