State officials are looking for public comment tonight (5-7pm) at Saint Paul’s Union Depot, as they pitch their plan to add a second daily passenger train on the current AmTrak Empire Builder route between the Twin Cities and Chicago. It comes as President Trump is proposing to cut federal money for that line. Dan Krom with MN-DOT responds, “At the same time he’s proposed eliminating funding for the long distance service, he has proposed shifting funding to the corridor trains that we’re talking about here.” He adds, “Worst-case scenario from our perspective is, the AmTrak long-distance train goes away, but we get support from the federal government to build a train between the Twin Cities and Chicago.”
Krome says it would cost about 95 million dollars to upgrade the train line, with costs shared by Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. Annual operating expenses are estimated between 10 and 12 million dollars. Krom says 75- to 80-percent would be paid by fares.