Great River Rail Commission
Great River Rail Commission
Kevin Roggenbuck, Senior Transportation Planner, Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority
For immediate release: May 22, 2023
Legislature Approves Funds for TCMC Second Train Operating, Capital Expenses
May 22, 2023 (Saint Paul, Minn.) – The Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Intercity Passenger Rail Project (TCMC Second Train) took another step toward reality when the Minnesota Legislature approved a Transportation bill that included funding for operating the service and funds to address construction inflation. The Governor is expected to sign the bill within days.
“We are extremely grateful to our partners in the legislature, especially Rep. Frank Hornstein and Sen. Scott Dibble, who have strongly supported our project,” said Great River Rail Commission Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo. “Now we are waiting to join Amtrak and the Minnesota Department of Transportation in announcing the start of the service. We are so close to doubling the opportunity for passenger rail transportation between the Twin Cities and Chicago.”
In order to begin service, anticipated to start this year, the project required a portion of its operating costs and some additional capital costs to be funded by the state. Approximately $3.1 million covers the state’s portion of the cost of operating the service for the next two years. Wisconsin has already committed to provide a similar amount and ticket revenue is expected to cover over half the total operating cost. New legislation will have to be approved to continue operations into the future.
Capital funding of $2 million will be used to supplement the cost of construction of track and signal improvements, most of which will occur near Winona and La Crescent. Capital funding was approved by the legislature in 2021, but inflation in steel costs require an additional investment. The project already has capital commitments of $32 million from the federal government, $10 million from Minnesota, $6 million from Wisconsin, and $5 million from Amtrak. In addition, the federal government will provide $12.6 million for startup operating costs.
“Minnesotans benefit in many ways by having access to travel by train,” said MatasCastillo. “Communities benefit from economic development and tourism; Minnesotans have greater mobility by having an environmentally sound means of travel.”
Business and tourism groups facilitated by the Great River Rail Commission in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Winona, Red Wing and the Twin Cities are in the beginning stages of exploring ways to link tourism promotions with passenger train travel.
“We are so excited to encourage visitors to consider using the Empire Builder and the TCMC Second Train to come to our city,” said Pat Mutter, executive director of Visit Winona. “Train travel is relaxing and enjoyable, which fits perfectly into a day or weekend experience in Winona.”
Supporters of the TCMC Second Train are encouraged to sign up for the Great River Rail newsletter at greatriverrail.org to stay updated on the start of TCMC Second Train service.
About the Commission
The Great River Rail Commission is one of the leading voices on passenger rail in Minnesota. The Commission advocates for the development of the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Intercity Passenger Rail Project (TCMC Second Train), a daily round trip passenger train between the Twin Cities and Chicago which received capital funding for track and signal improvements from the Minnesota Legislature in 2021. The Commission’s long-range vision is that the Second Train demonstrates additional demand that leads to further investment in faster, more frequent passenger train service. More information is available at greatriverrail.org.