Get Involved Rail in MN

TCMC Second Train

Next Steps

The Minnesota Department Transportation is working with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and their partners to complete the Twin Cities - Milwaukee - Chicago (TCMC) Intercity Passenger Rail Service Study, the next step to improve passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Study partners will complete the detailed study of the service in two phases.

Amtrak <em>Empire Builder</em> Train

The second phase will generate a service development plan and complete an environmental analysis of track improvements needed to accommodate a second passenger train.

The first phase will evaluate alternatives for track and other infrastructure improvements required for a second daily round trip, along with costs. The second phase will generate a service development plan and complete an environmental analysis. The scope of work in the study includes a Purpose and Need Statement and Alternatives Analysis, operations analysis to evaluate the most efficient option as it interacts with freight trains, and evaluation of railroad infrastructure improvements needs. The Coalition of funding partners includes the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority, the Great River Rail Commission, and the La Crosse Area Planning Committee.

The study is completed in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration which is necessary to seek federal funds to help pay for infrastructure improvements and train sets.

MnDOT's TCMC Information

 

Current Work, Future Work and Studies Completed

Current Work

Second Train Passenger Rail Service Study - Phase 1

The first phase evaluates alternatives for track and other infrastructure improvements required for a second daily round trip, along with costs. The scope of work in the study includes a Purpose and Need Statement and Alternatives Analysis, operations analysis to evaluate the most efficient option with freight trains, and evaluation of railroad infrastructure improvements needs.

The process is nearly complete, with results highlights included in this slideshow:

TCMC Project Update

Other Phase 1 reports are here.

MnDOT TCMC Phase 1 Study web page

Fact sheet

Purpose and Need Statement

Alternatives Analysis and Modeling

 

Second Train Passenger Rail Service Study - Phase 2

The second phase of planning requires an environmental analysis, preliminary design of track improvements, and will generate a service development plan. Prior to beginning the environmental analysis, the Federal Railroad Administration will rule on how extensive the analysis needs to be. The more extensive, the longer the work will take to complete. We are hopeful that only the minimum will be required since very few capital improvements have been identified as necessary. If a more robust analysis is required, this work could take more than four years.

No funds are currently available to complete this work. The Commission has sought funds each of the past two years from the state legislature. The last legislative request for $4 million was not funded. This phase of work is on hold until funds are available.

 

Future Work

Design, engineering, construction, and purchase of equipment are the next steps in the technical process to bring increased passenger rail to the River Route. Simultaneously, the Great River Rail Commission's mission is to provide information about the project to the public and key stakeholders, including local, state and federal elected officials and administrators. This information can help these officials make the funding and policy decisions necessary to make the TCMC Second Train project a reality.

 

Studies Completed

Amtrak completed a feasibility study in cooperation with MnDOT, WisDOT and La Crosse County, WI in 2015. The study found that adding a second daily round-trip train between Saint Paul and Chicago was the most feasible alternative for initial service with potential extensions to Minneapolis and Saint Cloud in the future. Adding a second train would offer more options to travelers, provide better eastbound reliability, and more frequent trains. Ridership on the Amtrak® Empire Builder within the Twin Cities-Chicago corridor is routinely high, exceeding 100,000 annually. A second train could carry 155,000 passengers annually.

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Fact Sheet Downloads

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2019 Fact Packet: TCMC Second Train

Frequently Asked Questions