MN lawmakers considering second train to Chicago

Reflcting on Amtrak's 3rd Annual Autumn Express Train as it exits the Hoosac Tunnel in North Adams, MA on October 25, 2015. 

Minnesota lawmakers need to approve $1 million next year for the second phase of a study about adding a second Twin Cities-to-Chicago passenger train with stops in Red Wing and Winona.

Legislators already are faced with more than $3 billion in requests for construction projects across Minnesota, the Post Bulletin reported.

Red Wing Mayor Sean Dowse said a second train would help boost the city's economy.

"Bottom line, I think it would be helpful to us both economically and as a benefit of living in Red Wing," he said.

The current Amtrak Empire Builder route has a once daily round-trip service from the Twin Cities to Chicago.

The Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation agencies did a feasibility of a second route in 2015 that found there was enough demand to warrant a second train.

"We have seen a lot of support for adding the second train," said Praveena Pidaparthi, planning director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Passenger Rail Office. "It basically provides more travel options to the public."

The train would have a maximum speed of 79 miles an hour and be able to get from St. Paul to Chicago in just over six hours.

The study estimates that a second train would see 155,000 riders annually and generate more than $6.8 in annual revenue. The project is estimated to cost more than $95 million, with an additional $6.6 million in annual operating and maintenance costs.

The next phase of the feasibility study requires an environmental analysis of the route and a service development plan.

If the funding is approved, a new passenger train could be operating in 2022.