(FOX 9) - Rail lines that currently serve commuters from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois could soon see improvements that double available round trips, according to an announcement by both the Minnesota and Wisconsin department of transportation.
Both states announced Wednesday a $31.8 million federal grant had been received for station and rail segment improvements to double passenger rail service and increase freight efficiency along the corridor that connects the Twin Cities, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Chicago.
According to the announcement, the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) Intercity Passenger Rail Project will add a second daily passenger rail round-trip along the corridor shared by Amtrak Empire Builder and Hiawatha Service trains.
When combined with the Empire Builder, the corridor will offer two daily round trips between St. Paul and Chicago, expected to begin in 2024.
Rail improvements will ease train congestion, modernize sections of track and speed the movement of freight.
"This has been a long time coming," said Minnesota Senator Dibble, who spoke at an event at the La Crosse Amtrak Station celebrating the completion of funding for the second daily train. "It’s a great day for transportation. Minnesotans deserve a modern transportation system built for the 21st century and I’m grateful for collaboration between states and public and private entities to get this second train up and running."
The 411-mile corridor between St. Paul and Chicago will offer two daily round trips, with departures planned for each city in the morning and mid-day. The first year of service is projected to serve more than 124,000 riders.
"This vital rail project came together because the federal government not only recognized its importance to the region, but the extraordinary collaboration among states, local economic groups and freight and passenger rail," WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said in a statement announcement the grant. "The team effort we are celebrating today brings us a stronger and more diverse transportation infrastructure."
Improvements to the line are expected to save $34.7 million in freight costs over the next 30 years of operation. Grade crossing improvements will reduce gate-down times, and capacity improvements will increase efficiency.
Once known as "Amtrak Joe," the Biden Administration has made expanding commuter rail lines a priority.
The Midwest Regional Rail Plan proposes a "40-year vision" to create a high-speed rail system that would pass from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison to the Twin Cities, along with other branches and cities in the Midwest.