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Public comment sought on Twin Cities-Chicago rail

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ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) are seeking public input on proposed intercity passenger rail service improvements for the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago corridor.

“Increasing capacity and reliability on the Twin Cities- Milwaukee-Chicago passenger train route will create economic growth in corridor communities while providing a safe and reliable transportation alternative and benefitting local freight system,” said Mn- DOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “Passenger rail service is also essential to an equitable transportation system–increasing access to jobs, colleges and communities along this critical Minnesota corridor.”

“The importance of intercity connectivity and travel options cannot be overlooked when considering regional transportation,” WisDOT Secretarydesignee Craig Thompson said. “The Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha, as well as the Amtrak Empire Builder in 2019, were operating at or near capacity during peak travel seasons and forecasted demand is growing. This project leverages the existing rail corridor and passenger rail service to significantly improve the value of this transportation option across the state. This not only serves major Midwestern cities, but many rural communities along the route.”

Currently, only one train a day connects the major Midwestern cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Chicago and the smaller urban and rural communities in between. The one daily round-trip schedule and capacity constraints limits options for regional travel by rail.

The Twin Cities-Milwaukee- Chicago (TCMC) Passenger Rail Project will maintain and improve the existing 411-mile rail corridor currently used by Amtrak Empire Builder and Hiawatha trains by adding a second, daily round trip along the route. In addition to business and leisure travel, the project also provides direct benefits to freight transportation. Its primary benefit, however, will be to provide residents of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois convenient access to jobs, cultural attractions, top universities, and world-class healthcare. The TCMC will help to better connect smaller urban and rural communities with the economic epicenters of the region of Milwaukee, the Twin Cities, and Chicago.

Pending project approvals and funding availability, construction could begin in 2022 with service starting in 2024.

The public is asked to submit comments via the online comment form at www.dot.state.mn.us/passengerrail/ tc-mil-chi/index.html and by April 9. Comments may also be mailed to: Attention Arun Rao, P.O. Box 7913, Madison, WI 53707.

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