Amtrak, State DOTs Collaborate on Expanded Train Service

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Minnesota Department of Transportation, and Illinois Department of Transportation recently joined with Amtrak to launch a second daily passenger train route linking the Twin Cities in Minnesota and Chicago via Milwaukee.

[Above photo by Mike Armstrong for Amtrak]

Starting May 21, the new state-sponsored Borealis trains originate from St. Paul at midday and from Chicago in the late morning, with Coach and Business Class options in addition to a café car featuring regional items.

Amtrak said the Borealis trains will stop at the same places as the current Empire Builder train service between St. Paul and Milwaukee as well as at Hiawatha train stops between Milwaukee and Chicago. Another benefit of the Borealis service is a new eastbound Amtrak origination from Ramsey County’s Union Depot in St. Paul, Amtrak noted.

Photo by Amtrak

This new service – sponsored by Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois – brings Amtrak’s total of state-supported routes up to 29 in partnership with 18 states.

“This route includes eight stations in Wisconsin, and doubling the frequency of the service will better connect the many businesses, universities and tourist attractions along this corridor,” noted Wisconsin DOT Secretary Craig Thompson said in a statement.

“This expansion is thanks to the work we were able to do together with Minnesota, Illinois and Amtrak,” added Thompson, who also serves as the president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

“We will continue to work with federal and state partners to explore more passenger rail options in Wisconsin,” he said.

Craig Thompson (at left) with AASHTO’s Jim Tymon. Photo by AASHTO.

[Editor’s note: Thompson recently pointed out during a talk at AASHTO’s D.C. office on May 2 how partnerships like this one between three state departments of transportation and Amtrak to create the Borealis train service exemplifies the value of “togetherness” when it comes to completing transportation infrastructure projects.]

“A second daily passenger rail service connecting St. Paul to Chicago via Milwaukee is a welcome addition to our transportation system, providing more choices and travel flexibility for passengers,” noted Nancy Daubenberger, commissioner of the Minnesota DOT.

“We appreciate our partnerships with communities, federal, state and local governments, the host railroad CPKC, and Amtrak that were needed to get this service on-track, and to provide another safe, reliable transportation option,” she said. “We look forward to continuing these partnerships as we work toward further building out passenger rail options in the Midwest.”

“We are proud to collaborate with neighboring states and our federal partners to offer more Amtrak service in the Midwest,” said Omer Osman, secretary of the Illinois DOT. “Ensuring passenger rail that’s safe, reliable and accessible is one of the many reasons Illinois continues to distinguish itself as the transportation hub of North America.”

Amtrak’s Roger Harris. Photo by AASHTO.

“Through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification Program we are working with grantees on dozens of other possible new Amtrak routes,” said Amtrak President Roger Harris. 

“Thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, interest from state transportation departments and others for new or expanded Amtrak service across the country is at an all-time high,” he said.

“This is a win for passenger rail expansion in America, and more importantly, it’s a win for a growing number of Americans who rely on passenger rail and benefit from it,” noted Amit Bose, FRA administrator.

“Investments in rail have long helped Midwesterners and the region’s economy, and this new service will mean additional access for people traveling between Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois while contributing to economic growth,” he added.

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