News & Reviews News Wire Final design phase begins for work to support second Chicago-Twin Cities passenger train

Final design phase begins for work to support second Chicago-Twin Cities passenger train

By Trains Staff | September 20, 2022

| Last updated on February 16, 2024

Plans will address infrastructure improvements needed for second passenger train on portion of Empire Builder route

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Map of passenger rail route between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago
Planned station stops for the planned Twin Cities-Chicago passenger train.  Minnesota DOT

MADISON, Wis. — The final design phase of the project to add a second Amtrak passenger train between Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul has begun, with public comments now being accepted and public meetings to show plans for the service expected to be held this fall.

The design phase for what is known as the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago, or TCMC, project will develop detailed plans for infrastructure improvements allowing the 411-mile route to handle additional freight service as well as the second daily passenger round trip. The project has $53 million in federal, state, and Amtrak funding in hand for improvements to track, signals, and grade crossings. Final design is expected to be complete in summer 2023, with construction beginning late that year and concluding in 2025. The second train is expected to begin operating in 2024 or earlier.

More information about the project is available on pages at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Minnesota Department of Transportation websites. Those wishing to comment on the project should use the form available here.

14 thoughts on “Final design phase begins for work to support second Chicago-Twin Cities passenger train

    1. Still waiting on the bathrooms to get redone due to a supplier/compliance issue with Amtrak. I haven’t heard a date yet.

  1. It would be nice if they used single level cars on this service instead of Superliners & have a business class section as on other corridor trains.

  2. Charles, I quite agree with you. However it is not quite true that there has never been Amtrak stops in Western suburbs of Milwaukie. For a brief time (I want to say it was about 25 years ago) Amtrak ran a temporary commuter service from Milwaukee to the west. Stops were temporary without much physical improvement at all.

    1. Yeah, forgot about that. I was the first person to board in Elm Grove.

      You’re right about the date. It was if I recall 1997. Which fits because that was the first year I lived in Wauwatosa — I walked from home to Elm Grove.

      If I recall, the train did not run the second year of the two-year paving project on IH 94. And you’re right, there were no platforms, we boarded at grade crossings.

    2. I believe the 90-day experimental train was in summer of 1998. One hot evening I rode a round-trip (Oconomowoc-Watertown and back, if I recall right). It was near the end of the experiment. The train was crowded and somewhat late. Sure made me wonder how many more might ride if the service was permanent and supported by decent stations and platforms.

  3. Here’s my comment:

    Since the founding of Amtrak, there has been no stop in the Milwaukee’s western suburbs. Looking at the map, none is proposed. In other words, no stop in the area including Wauwatosa (western Milwaukee County) or anywhere in Waukesha County – Elm Grove, Brookfield, Pewaukee, Hartland, Nashotah or Oconomowoc. It’s easy to see why — there’s no good place for a park-ride. But there’s lots of potential customers, including the nearby City of Waukesha, one of the largest in the state.

    According to the map, MKA — Milwaukee Airport, is added as a stop for at least one of the Minneapolis trains. Now only the Hiawatha calls at MKA, but not the Builder. MKA has only one platform, on the easterly track, for trains in both directions. It has been proposed to add a second platform and I assume the requisite wheelchair accessible footbridge. To make any of this work, CP Rail would need to be restored as a two-way railroad. Now, it is two parallel single -track railroads, one for passenger and one for freight, from Milwaukee down to Hwy 20 just north of the Sturtevant station.

    Another gap is that there is no proposed stop in Kenosha County. As it is now, the Sturtevant station suffices for both Racine County (where it is located) and Kenosha County. There is no shortage of parking at Sturtevant, but it is a bit of a drive for Kenosha residents.

    Also there is no proposed Amtrak stop in populous Lake County, Illinois, which is served by METRA only. An Amtrak stop could be added at the existing Lake Forest station (though parking is very tight) in the same way that LaGrange is a suburban Amtrak stop for the Quincy trains.

    1. I have used to the form (linked in the article) to forward these comments to the project planners. For people unfamiliar with SE Wisconsin, MKA has little or nothing to do with connections to airlines — it’s a south suburban park-ride for the Hiawatha and is well patronized.

    2. They’re building a casino in Waukegan, just to the south of the CP Rail tracks near IL-120. Early talk was that, if there did build a casino there, a station could also be added there to serve the casino. Amtrak Hiawathas would call there, as well as a possible METRA extension up to Wadsworth (where this is already a spur that could be enhanced to house Metra consists overnight).

      Talk’s cheap, of course. But such an extension would attract patrons to the casino from both Chicago and Milwaukee (and points in between).

    3. I agree. Waukegan is a perfect stop.

      This would be a perfect way to sell a Twins-ChiSox, rivalry with consecutive 3 or 4 game stands with a day in between. It certainly has worked for a Brewers-Cubs series.

      Or an Amtrak special for Bears and Vikings fans for each home game.

    4. B&O/C&O tried that for a Pittsburgh @ Cleveland NFL football game using PATrain’s 6-car push-pull set. Scarcity of single game pro football tickets was the problem. That was pre-Stub Hub.

      NJT has a spur from Secaucus junction and a station at Meadowlands Sports Complex where both the NY Football Giants and the NY Jets play their home games. Some direct and multiple shuttle trains run on game days.

    5. Within my time living in Kenosha (now 17 years), there was discussion about an Amtrak stop in Pleasant Prairie at the site of the Park-and-Ride within the Recplex, just north of the WI Hwy 165 overpass over CP. Obviously that discussion fizzled along with the restoration of commuter rail to MKE from the Kenosha Metra station (and I’m not holding my breath on the new proposal for that, either).

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