St. Paul MN - June 26, 2021. Passenger rail advocates All Aboard Minnesota announced today that funding for the 2nd train to Chicago - serving four Minnesota Cities - is officially part of the Minnesota biennial Transportation budget.
Governor Tim Walz signed a bi-partisan transportation bill for Minnesota today that moves Minnesota towards a multi-modal state. The bill funds a 2nd daily passenger train between the Twin Cities and Chicago, long sought by citizens and rail advocates. The $10M state appropriation leverages a $32M federal grant awarded the state in 2020 to fund infrastructure projects to enable the 2nd train and improve freight rail operations in the state.
Representative Alice Hausman introduced legislation for the 2nd train this session that was ultimately included in the overall transportation bill. Representative Hausman stated "The 2nd train will provide transportation equity for Minnesotans who cannot or don't want to drive or fly, along with significant economic benefits to the cities this train serves and the state overall. This is an important step to keeping Minnesota competitive with other states that have already invested in passenger rail."
The 2nd train is estimated to carry between 124,000-150,000 riders per year, and take an estimated 15M car trips off highways in the corridor, reducing highway maintenance and congestion. All Aboard Minnesota President Brian Nelson said "For too long Minnesotans have relied primarily on highways and airways for their transportation needs. Passenger rail offers a real choice and will entice more travel and tourism for our state. We applaud the Minnesota Legislature for passing a bi-partisan transportation bill that serves Minnesota well."
The infrastructure work is estimated to take approximately two to three years to complete, and the 2nd train could begin rolling in 2023-2024. This route will operate on the current Amtrak Empire Builder line, serving St. Paul, Red Wing, Winona and La Crescent in Minnesota, continuing on through Wisconsin and Illinois to Chicago.
State funding for the 2nd train received support from nine city and county governments that passed resolutions along the 2nd train route and other planned rail corridors in the overall MnDOT state passenger rail plan.