Planning continues to advance for new Chicago-Twin Cities Amtrak service

Train could begin service in 2022, Wisconsin official says
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The Empire Builder crosses the Mississippi River in Hastings, Minn., in September 2018. Planning continues for efforts to launch a second train on the Builder's route between Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
TRAINS: David Lassen

PORTAGE, Wis. — A proposal for a second daily Amtrak train between Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul should receive a waiver exempting it from a full environmental impact report, easing the process of preparing to launch the train.

Arun Rao, passenger rail manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, discussed the project at a recent meeting of the Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers in Portage, the Portage Daily Register reports. He said the Federal Railroad Administration told the state that the project would qualify for a “categorical exclusion,” allowing a more abbreviated environmental report, because the project involves an existing railroad.

Rao said the report could be completed as early as 2020. Planning, including studies of ridership, equipment, and revenue, is 25 to 50 percent complete, he said. That planning is fully funded in Wisconsin and is expected to receive full funding in Minnesota.

The train could begin service as early as 2022, Rao said. Construction and implementation costs to allow the train to launch are currently estimated at $76 million, with annual operating costs of $5.5 million to be shared by Wisconsin, Minnesota, and possibly Illinois.

The proposed schedule for the eastbound train would run 4 to 5 hours later than that of the Empire Builder, the route’s current service. The westbound train would run 4 to 5 hours ahead of the Builder.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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