Amtrak's Empire Builder Threatened

October 8, 2019

Brian W. Nelson

P.O. Box 4212, St. Paul, MN 55104
612-781-2894 (Telephone)
[email protected]

Web Site Address:


For immediate release: October 8, 2019 Amtrak Empire Builder Service Could Be Threatened
Buses could substitute rail passenger service west of Minneapolis, St. Paul, MN

October 8, 2019 (St.Paul, MN) Passenger rail advocacy groups All Aboard Minnesota and the Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers (WISARP) learned that Amtrak looked into the possibility of cancelling the Empire Builder passenger train west of the Twin Cities, replacing rail service with buses during the summer of 2018. The plan would have bused passengers from the Twin Cities, to Spokane, WA, where rail service would resume. We understand the current stations along the impacted route would be served.

A source within Amtrak, and a bus company in the Twin Cities confirmed this information. All Aboard Minnesota President Brian Nelson stated "We knew Amtrak was looking into annulling the Southwest Chief between Dodge City, KS and Albuquerque, NM with a bus plan, but we were surprised that Amtrak would consider that plan with the Empire Builder. Over 140, 000 Minnesotans and over 450,000 people every year rely on the Empire Builder for their transportation needs. It is one of the most heavily used trains in the United States," Nelson added.

Rail advocates maintain that bus service replacing rail service would kill the route eventually. Roads and highways in North Dakota and Montana in the winter can be impassible, and the train can be the only reliable form of transportation in these areas. WISARP Vice President Terry Brown stated "We are very concerned about any bus plan. Thousands of Wisconsin citizens travel on the Empire Builder west every year for vacations, to visit family, friends, and business purposes."

Amtrak has stated their new business model favors short haul "corridors," and discontinuing many of the long distance trains like the Empire Builder. All Aboard Minnesota is strongly supportive of new corridor service in Minnesota, such as an additional frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago along the Empire Builder route, and service between the Twin Cities and Duluth. "We absolutely need more rail passenger service in Minnesota as part of a balanced transportation system. Over 70% of Minnesotans favor more service*, but definitely not at the expense of our existing Empire Builder," Nelson stated.

Congress last summer told Amtrak to run a national system, and thus far no long distance trains have been annulled or canceled, but rail advocates believe the bus plan threat could be renewed. All Aboard Minnesota and WISARP will be contacting their US Congressional delegation, asking that money appropriated for Amtrak be tied to running a truly national system, and not discontinuing long distance trains like the Empire Builder. Brown stated "Many people either don't want to or cannot drive or fly. The train is a necessity for them and is far easier to travel on than a bus."

About All Aboard Minnesota
All Aboard Minnesota is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit advocacy and education organization focused on the expansion and development of more long distance rail passenger service as part of a balanced transportation system. We are dedicated to the development of fast, comfortable, frequent, intercity passenger train services within and connecting Minnesota to the upper Midwest.

For more information, All Aboard Minnesota can be reached at (612) 781-2894 or on the Web at:

*Survey conducted by UTU-Smart-TD Minnesota