Capital Improvements and Funding
Comprehensive studies have been completed by project partners that identify $53 million in capital investments to track, sidings, switches, and signaling along the route in order to add the TCMC Second Train service. The investments are divided between Wisconsin and Minnesota. $40.6 million of work would be completed mostly between Winona and La Crescent.
In September 2020, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded $320.6 million to 50 projects in 29 states as part of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program aimed at helping localities, short lines and passenger railroads improve the safety and efficiency of their rail networks. The TCMC Second Train project was selected to receive a $31.8 million CRISI grant for capital improvements. The grant requires a local funding match.
Also, in 2020, Amtrak pledged $5 million, and the state of Wisconsin pledged $6.2 million to be used for capital improvements, and as matching funds for the federal CRISI grant. Amtrak also pledged to make capital improvements to the platform at the Winona station.
In June of 2021, the Minnesota Legislature included funding for capital costs for the TCMC Second Train project in the transportation bill which was signed into law by Governor Walz. This fulfills the local funding requirement for the CRISI Grant.
The CRISI grant application included 41 letters of support for the TCMC Second Train project, including a letter from Canadian Pacific Railway. The project has received support from well over 50 businesses, organizations, and local governments.
Operating Costs and Funding
A 2015 Amtrak feasibility study estimated 155,000 additional annual trips on the TCMC. Updated ridership estimates show a combined 247,000 annual trips with 124,000 on the TCMC and 123,000 on the current Empire Builder. Service could begin in 2023 if capital funds are finalized and construction is completed.
Amtrak would be the likely service operator, possibly using refurbished train equipment.
In May 2020, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded a grant of $12.569 million for operating the TCMC Second Train to be used in the first four years of service.
The amount of funding per state and the source of operating funds have not yet been identified.
The Great River Rail Commission will begin advocating for a state revenue source for operating expenses