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The Wisconsin and Minnesota departments of transportation yesterday announced a $31.8 million federal grant to fund station and rail segment improvements aimed at doubling passenger-rail service and increasing freight efficiency along the corridor that connects the Twin Cities, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Chicago.
The Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Intercity Passenger Rail Project (TCMC) will add a second daily passenger-rail round-trip along the corridor shared by Amtrak Empire Builder and Hiawatha Service trains. The trains will stop in the Twin Cities, La Crosse in southwestern Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Chicago.
The TCMC added round-trip is expected to begin in 2024 or sooner. Rail improvements will ease train congestion, modernize sections of track and speed the movement of freight, said state, federal and Amtrak officials during a media event held yesterday in La Crosse.
The grant funds come from the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program.
The 411-mile corridor between St. Paul and Chicago will be served by two daily Amtrak round-trips, with departures planned for each city in the morning and midday. The first year of service is projected to serve more than 124,000 riders.
Improvements to the line are expected to save $34.7 million in freight costs over the next 30 years of operation. Grade crossing improvements will reduce gate-down times, while capacity improvements will increase efficiency.
"Through the leadership of [FRA Administrator Amit Bose], strong partnerships with state and local leaders in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and our productive relationship with Canadian Pacific, we are moving the addition of Amtrak service between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago to the forefront of our growth efforts," said Amtrak President and CEO Stephen Gardner in a press release. "While we cannot announce a TCMC start date yet, know all of us working together can make this happen in months instead of years."