Twin Cities - Milwaukee - Chicago
More than 10 million trips are taken annually between the Twin Cities and Chicago, including air, train and car travel. More than 100,000 of those trips are on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, a passenger train that runs from the west coast through the Twin Cities on its way to Chicago, and back.
The Twin Cities – Milwaukee – Chicago (TCMC) Second Train is a proposal to add a daily round-trip passenger train to the Twin Cities to Chicago route. The project seeks to improve mobility and increase travel options between Minnesota and Illinois, while minimizing capital investment. The trains would operate at current conventional speeds (79 mph) and follow the existing route between Chicago Union Station and Union Depot in Saint Paul.
A 2015 Amtrak feasibility study estimated 155,000 additional annual trips on the TCMC. And why not? There are many benefits to adding this transportation alternative:
- The service would be more reliable and would complement the current service
- Better on-time performance and more convenient travel times for shorter, regional trips
- Corridor safety would be improved with possible crossing and track improvements
- Investments in rail infrastructure could increase freight rail capacity
- Improved connections between other trains, buses, public transit, and air service
- Use of the existing route keeps capital costs low
Under the guidance of the Federal Railroad Administration, the Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of transportation are completing a detailed study of the service in two phases. Phase 1 is ongoing and evaluates alternatives for track and infrastructure improvements along with anticipated costs. Phase 2 will complete environmental analysis and generate a service development plan.
The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission is a strong advocate of the TCMC Second Train. It’s a first step towards a vision of faster, expanded service along the same route.
To begin service, the project needs funding; planning; potentially some safety, track, and station improvements; and at least one train set.
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