Moorhead could see second passenger train as extension of new Minneapolis to Chicago route
Brian Nelson, president of All Aboard Minnesota, said the addition of the route to the metro area and possibly even Grand Forks is among the top train projects listed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
He believes the Minnesota Legislature’s approval of funding for the second train to Chicago will have a “domino effect” that he believes could be good news for the ride to the border here, as well as a Duluth train to Minneapolis.
“I think it’s going to be very successful from the start,” Nelson said of the number of riders on the train that will depart eastbound from the Twin Cities at 11:30 am on its 411 mile route. He will arrive in Chicago at 7:00 p.m. It will join an earlier Amtrak Empire Builder train that departs at 8:00 a.m. and arrives in Chicago at 2:15 p.m.
The new line is expected to start in 2024.
Round trips on the second train will depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and arrive in Minneapolis at 5:30 p.m. Currently, the Empire Builder leaves Chicago at 2:15 p.m. and arrives in Minneapolis at 10 p.m.
While it will likely take around three years for the second train to operate if funding is secured, Nelson said, the additional route to Fargo-Moorhead could be planned and worked on at the same time as the other route.
“We will be lobbying for the second train to Fargo-Moorhead,” he said.
Currently, the train stopping at the Fargo Amtrak depot is heading east at 2:18 am if it is on time and arrives in the Twin Cities at 7:43 am Heading west on its journey through Northern North Dakota to the West Coast, the train departs at 3:24 am
So another train an hour later would be much more convenient for travelers to the area.
The reason for the rather long wait of three years for the second train to be operational, Nelson said, is that there must be a lot of work on a bottleneck on the Canadian Pacific line in the Winona area, Minn., In addition to improvements needed near Milwaukee airport and depot.
Work on the CP line will include improvements to the track, crossing, switch and grade.
MnDOT has worked hand-in-hand with Wisconsin transportation planners, and if the FM route is added, Nelson suspects they will be working with the North Dakota Department of Transportation as well.
While the Amtrak Empire Builder is expected to receive the contract to operate the second train, Nelson said, there could be competition.
Another selling point for adding Fargo-Moorhead to the route, Nelson said, is the “excellent condition” of the Burlington Northern rail line.
It is “one of the best sections of railroad in the United States,” he said, citing safe crossings, signage and double tracks.
When BNSF was asked about the possibility of using its track that crosses Minnesota diagonally from Moorhead to Minneapolis, comments from spokesperson Lydia Bjorge were not so positive.
In an email, she said: “The BNSF has long-standing principles for passengers that guide discussions about hosting passenger projects on our property. Our considerations include the safety and protection of freight customers. current and future in North Dakota and the rest of our network.
“Adding additional passenger service would require careful planning and discussion of how to ensure current and future freight service for our agricultural, energy and other customers,” she said.
Nelson and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Believe the rail upgrades will help freight traffic.
Klobuchar, who weighed in on approved funding for the second train in a statement, said the added passenger trains “would boost travel and tourism while expanding economic growth in our region.”
She said it will provide “convenient access to jobs, cultural attractions, top universities and world-class healthcare and better connect small urban and rural communities.”
She said rail upgrades are expected to improve the punctuality of passenger and freight trains.
The added trains will eventually come down to funding, as Nelson believes “the demand is there,” especially with demographics showing young people, possibly students, are said to be among the most common passengers.
This too makes the Fargo-Moorhead area attractive because of the three universities.
Nelson said a $ 25 million bill at the start of Minnesota’s legislative session had been reduced to $ 10 million. Minnesota’s legislative assistance this year will be in addition to a $ 32 million federal grant last year for rail upgrades to enable the second train.
If Congress can approve its federal infrastructure bill this year, Nelson said, that could also be a major factor in accelerating any passenger train expansion.