Second daily train from St. Paul to Chicago gets closer look

A study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Amtrak settled on Union Depot in St. Paul as the best endpoint for a second daily passenger train connecting Chicago and the Twin Cities. Stops in Minneapolis and St. Cloud were explored, but those scenarios had higher infrastructure costs, running as much as $46.4 million over the $95 million cost of the Chicago to St. Paul line.

Who uses the St. Paul to Chicago train?

The current Empire Builder route has approximately 104,000 riders each year, with departures from St. Paul in the morning and Chicago in the afternoon. A second daily train, with a morning departure from Chicago and a mid-day departure from St. Paul, is estimated at about 155,000 passengers.

This is not high-speed rail. The top speed for passenger trains on this Amtrak route is 79 mph.
Reasons for a second train

Increased schedule options from the existing one daily round-trip to two daily round-trips between the Twin Cities, Chicago and intermediate stations.

More reliable service with better on-time performance (particularly eastbound).

More convenient travel times for shorter, regional trips.

More seating capacity on the corridor relieving pressure during peak periods.

Improved connections between other trains, intercity buses, local public transit, and air service.

Next steps

The study recommends an environmental review of the project, with public comment, and an application for federal funding. MnDOT, WisDOT and LaCrosse County are determining how to fund this step.

For more information, visit the project website at

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