On Wednesday, representatives from the second Amtrak train service project got together with residents of Winona to discuss the following steps and speculate on when the second daily passenger train will begin operations.
What is the Twin Cities Milwaukee and Chicago Intercity Passenger Rail Project (TCMC) project?
The Twin Cities, Milwaukee, and Chicago Intercity Passenger Rail Project (TCMC) is an interstate project that connects Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois through the use of the existing Empire Builder rail line. The project has a total distance of 411 miles and will cost $53 million.
The plan calls for the addition of a daily service by a second train between the cities of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Chicago, Illinois, in order to improve the travel experience of the passengers. The already excellent train infrastructure in Winona and the Driftless Region, which is included in the project area, would undergo significant enhancements as a result of these proposed improvements.
Aaron Bowe, who is in charge of projects at HTNB Corporation, has stated that the construction work on the building may begin as early as July 2023.
What are the advantages of creating a new railway connection?
According to Bowe, the completion of the TCMC project will result in an increase in the region’s overall prosperity, the creation of additional employment opportunities, and the provision of additional travel options for both locals and tourists. The local, state, and federal governments, as well as the city government of Winona, have all said they are in favor of the plan.
Bowe has said that Winona’s rail system will be improved soon, especially in the northern Tower CK and southern Winona Siding areas.
According to the information provided by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, a new track will be constructed in order to connect to the mainline track that is located in the Tower CK section of the Canadian Pacific Railway Waseca Subdivision (a historical train junction near Westfield Golf Course).
MnDOT to Upgrade Winona Siding for Faster Train Movement
Train movements will be more efficient with the addition of power switches and railroad signals; conflicts between freight and passenger trains that pass each other will be reduced; at-grade crossings at Bierce Street and Prairie Island Road will be removed; and there will be fewer conflicts between trains as they pass each other (MnDOT). Bowe estimated that the total cost of these renovations would be close to twelve million dollars.
According to MnDOT, the Winona Siding section that is located north of 11th Street will have two miles of its existing siding track repaired and upgraded. In order to facilitate the faster movement of trains, there will be an installation of railroad signals in addition to the replacement of two manual switches with two power turnouts. Bowe estimates that this portion of the project will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million dollars.
Bowe indicated that there would be times when certain roads in Winona would be closed so that these improvements could be made.
What is the goal of the project that Amtrak and TCMC are working on?
According to Bowe, a request for feedback from the general public will not be made until the spring of the following year. After that, the partners on the project will complete their designs, construction will begin in 2024, and they will launch their second train service as early as 2023 at the earliest.
He made it abundantly clear that the existing infrastructure would be capable of managing the second train but that it would not function as efficiently as it could if the necessary improvements were not made.
According to Bowe, the plan for Amtrak is for one train to depart in the morning, and another train is scheduled to depart around lunchtime. Within the TCMC corridor, both trains would operate independently of one another.
According to the schedule provided by Bowe, a train that departed Winona at 4:20 p.m. and headed west would arrive in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at 6:16 p.m., while a train that departed Winona at 1:39 p.m. and headed east would arrive in Chicago at 7 p.m. When asked about the potential start date of service, Bowe mentioned that 2023 was a possibility.
Amtrak to Increase Service on Twin Cities-Chicago Corridor
According to estimates provided by Amtrak, a total of 124,000 passengers could board both trains at each of the 13 stations located along the route. If you were to travel from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Chicago, Illinois, at the current speed limit of 79 miles per hour, the trip would take approximately seven and a half hours. Later, Bowe said that Amtrak is thinking about whether or not to run a third train along the TCMC corridor.
“This is just the beginning for this corridor,” stated Derek James, who is in charge of government affairs for Amtrak. We believe that cities such as La Crosse, the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, and Chicago are all sufficiently large to warrant the operation of more than one train per day.
We are making an effort to provide service that is as frequent as it would be in Europe by operating multiple trains each and every day. It has a positive impact on the environment by reducing pollution and the likelihood of automobile accidents, as well as a positive impact on the quality of life for the millions of people in the United States who do not own a car.