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[Editor's update, 3:56 p.m.: Dates for the public meetings have been changed since an earlier version of this story was posted. The Minnesota Department of Transportation informed us this afternoon that yesterday it inadvertently sent out the incorrect dates.]
A "purpose and need" statement has been completed for a proposed expansion of daily passenger-rail service between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced yesterday.The statement's release defines the project's purpose and marks a milestone in the project's development. It also begins the project's public involvement and environmental processes, MnDOT officials said in a statement.The proposal calls for adding a second daily roundtrip on the Amtrak Empire Builder route between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago (TCMC), with stops at smaller cities along the route.Public information meetings for the project will begin Sept. 6 at the La Crosse County Administrative Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Sept. 7 at St. Paul's Union Depot.The next steps in the process involve evaluating alternatives for the project and necessary infrastructure upgrades.The Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois departments of transportation are working with the Federal Railroad Administration, Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority, Minnesota High Speed Rail Commission and La Crosse Area Planning Committee on the initial planning effort for the proposed TCMC project.The 418-mile TCMC corridor connects the regions around Minneapolis and St. Paul, Milwaukee, Chicago and provides service to Red Wing and Winona in Minnesota; La Crosse, Tomah, Wisconsin Dells, Portage, Columbus and Milwaukee in Wisconsin; and Glenview in Illinois.The TCMC corridor now is served by Amtrak's long-distance Empire Builder service that operates between Chicago, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. This service provides one trip per day in each direction.