Comments sought on rail project to add second daily Twin Cities-Chicago round-trip through La Crosse

Project includes improvements to rail facilities in La Crosse, La Crescent, Winona
Amtrak 2

MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) — The Wisconsin and Minnesota transportation departments are seeking public input on a proposal to add a second daily round-trip passenger rail route in the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago corridor.
The project includes improvements to track, at-grade crossings, signals and communication infrastructure in La Crosse and Winona and La Crescent, Minn., to allow freight trains to bypass passenger trains and reduce delays.
A recorded presentation on the project includes information on the anticipated project schedule, service improvements and proposed railroad work.
“The importance of intercity connectivity and travel options cannot be overlooked when considering regional transportation,” WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said.
The Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha and the Amtrak Empire Builder were operating at or near capacity during peak travel seasons in 2019, and demand is growing, Thompson said.
“As the population ages and more and more young professionals and businesses consider moving to our states, the need for increased transportation options is vital to grow local economies and improve the quality of life,” he said.
The project will improve the value of railroad travel across the state, Thompson said, adding, “This not only serves major Midwestern cities, but many rural communities along the route.”
Increasing capacity and reliability on the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago route will create economic growth with a better freight system in corridor communities, said MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
“Passenger rail service is also essential to an equitable transportation system – increasing access to jobs, colleges and communities along this critical Minnesota corridor,” Kelliher said.
The fact that only one round-trip train a day connects the 411-mile rail corridor between Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee and Chicago and the urban and rural communities in between limits options for regional rail travel, Kelliher said.
The project includes renovating the former Amtrak Midway Station in Saint Paul to serve as a crew base, layover and commissary facility if deemed necessary.
Pending project approvals and funding availability, construction could begin in 2022, with service starting in 2024.
In addition to the presentation, other project details, including the project map, are available at the Wisconsin DOT website. If you are unable to access the presentation and need a printed copy, contact Kia Her at, (608) 267-7350, or via Telecommunications Relay Systems (Dial 711).
The public is asked to submit comments on the online comment form by April 9. Comments also may be mailed to: Attention Arun Rao, P.O. Box 7913, Madison, WI 53707.