Great River Rail Commission
For immediate release: June 28, 2021
State Provides Construction Funds for TCMC Second Train
$10 million provides match for federal grant
June 28, 2021 (Saint Paul, Minn.) – The Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Intercity Passenger Rail project (TCMC Second Train) will receive $10 million from a more than $7 billion omnibus transportation funding package signed into law by Governor Tim Walz. The funds, combined with funds committed by Wisconsin and Amtrak, result in a full match for a federal grant awarded last year, and a green light for final design and construction.
“This is a great day for passenger and freight rail, and a great day for Minnesota,” said Great River Rail Commission Chair and Hastings City Councilmember, Mark Vaughan. “The members of this commission, representing 18 local governments, have long advocated for the expansion of passenger rail service in our state. We are extremely grateful to the Minnesota legislators and the Governor who worked so hard to pass this important legislation.”
The TCMC Second Train project will add a second daily round trip passenger train between the Twin Cities and Chicago operated by Amtrak, and is expected to carry 124,000 passengers annually beginning in 2024. The $10 million investment will result in $40 million in track and signal improvements to rail infrastructure in southeastern Minnesota that will benefit both passenger and freight rail.
"Thanks to Gov. Walz, a bi-partisan Legislative coalition and the communities working with the Great River Rail Commission, Amtrak is ready to take the next steps to make the TCMC Second Train a reality as soon as possible,” said Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn. “Together with our partners at MnDOT and the Wisconsin DOT, this bill unlocks federal funds that will enable all of the Amtrak cities on the route to have more travel options that are comfortable, reliable and environmentally friendly."
The transportation package received bi-partisan support, with the Minnesota House of Representatives approving the bill with a vote of 112-21, and the Minnesota Senate approving 67-0. With this action, Minnesota joins the federal government, the state of Wisconsin, and Amtrak in funding the $53.3 million capital portion of the project to be used for final design and construction of freight rail track and signal improvements in and around Winona and La Crescent. A $31.8 million grant was awarded to the project in 2020 from the Federal Railroad Administration, Wisconsin committed $6.5 million, and Amtrak committed $5 million, as well as additional funding to upgrade the Winona station.
The next steps for the project are to reach agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois; and Amtrak and Canadian Pacific, the host railroad. Once the MOU is approved by all parties it will be submitted to the Federal Railroad Association to begin the process of accepting federal grant dollars. The Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Transportation will lead the process of establishing the agreements, and final design and construction of the project.
“Minnesota is making a very wise investment,” Vaughan said. “There are so many benefits to Minnesotans. Of course travelers benefit with a new, on-time transportation option, but local businesses benefit from increased tourism and increased freight capacity, and we all benefit from economic, environmental and safety improvements.”
About the TCMC Second Train and Great River Rail
The TCMC Second Train is a second daily round trip between the Twin Cities and Chicago along the existing Empire Builder tracks that is expected to carry 124,000 trips annually and complement existing Amtrak service. The traditional speed (79 mph max) service would originate at Union Depot in St. Paul, making stops in Red Wing, and Winona in Minnesota, before entering Wisconsin and ultimately ending in Chicago. The Great River Rail Commission is made up of elected officials representing 18 local and regional governments from St. Paul to La Crosse, who advocate for safer, more frequent passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Chicago.