Ramsey County took a step Tuesday toward helping to provide a second daily round-trip rail service from St. Paul’s Union Depot to Chicago — a move that ultimately would require Minnesota, Wisconsin or other partners to throw in $6.6 million in annual operating subsidies.
More than 100,000 passengers per year already board Amtrak’s Empire Builder passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Paul, and a second daily round trip could draw an additional 155,000 passengers annually.
Those numbers come from a 28-page feasibility study produced by Amtrak nine months ago. Since then, prospects for two daily passenger train trips between the Twin Cities and the Windy City have mostly languished on a shelf.
Railroad and Missouri Department of Transportation officials reached an agreement that should keep Amtrak running through Warrensburg, between Kansas City and St. Louis.
“We’ve reached a working agreement that’s fair to all parties,” MoDOT Railroads Administrator Eric Curtit said.
Some University of Central Missouri students use Amtrak to reach Warrensburg.
Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation say they have reached an agreement to maintain existing service on state-supported routes while reducing costs.
The deal announced Friday will maintain service through the end of the fiscal year on June 30 at a cost of $38.3 million to the state. The department paid $42 million the previous fiscal year.
The state supports four daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis, plus two between Chicago and Quincy and two Chicago and Carbondale.
The Chippewa Valley is crisscrossed with highways and train tracks. If area businesses are the Valley’s organs, its land-based transportation network is its circulatory system. So, how healthy is this system?
Business and government leaders at the local and state level can point to a great many success stories. But they also have their eye on ways to strengthen the area’s infrastructure, and the challenges on the horizon.
By dint of their carrying capacity, the rails are the aortas and carotid arteries of the Valley’s transportation infrastructure. A unit train is equivalent to 300 trucks, but trains don’t just lug large quantities. They’re also four times more fuel efficient than trucks. One ton of freight can be moved 471 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel.
City and county officials say a deal is near to get rail consolidation back on track in Springfield.
Unlike the agreement that unraveled in October when the city failed to win a $16 million federal grant, the latest pact would focus state spending on relocation of Union Pacific and Amtrak trains from Third Street to 10th Street without the federal funding contingency.
“I think we’re fairly close to a new deal. Some of the details are still being worked out,” said Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter, a key supporter of the original plan.
ST. PAUL — Plans for a public high-speed passenger line in southeastern Minnesota are coming to a halt, clearing the way for a potential project by the private sector.
Minnesota Department of Transportation announced late this week it will suspend work on the proposed Zip Rail line from the Twin Cities to Rochester.
Meanwhile it has issued permits to Minnesota-based North American High Speed Rail Group to explore a privately funded line.
The proposed publicly funded Zip Rail high-speed passenger line from the Twin Cities to Rochester may have hit a dead end.
A lack of funds — and interest in a similar project by the private sector — could mean an end to the state’s study process.
Public funding to advance the Zip Rail to an environmental impact study phase has run out, said Dan Krom, director of MnDOT’s Passenger Rail Office. He said a decision to suspend the project is being considered by MnDOT in partnership with Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority.
Gov. Bruce Rauner last spring proposed a 40 percent cut to Amtrak funding that threatened to end two lines running through Effingham. But the lines are still operating.
Amtrak has not reduced service and does not plan to, according to a company spokesman.
“We’re operating at the same level of service as we were before,” said Marc Magliari, media relations manager for Amtrak.
Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed budget would provide an additional $500,000 for the statewide passenger rail service, pushing the state funding total to $10.2 million.
“That directly goes to the Missouri River Runner, which is the line that goes right through the heart of Warrensburg, the line between Kansas City and St. Louis, so that’s very positive news,” Pearce said.
The additional money will benefit the service, if supported by the General Assembly, in the coming year, but is far short of funding needed by Amtrak to install the required Positive Train Control safety system.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo entreated New Yorkers last week to “think big” again, invoking Robert Moses, New York’s take-no-prisoners planning czar of the 20th century.
He was talking about fixing Pennsylvania Station, and presumably he meant the good Moses, the young, public-spirited idealist who opened parks and beaches. The bad Moses displaced hundreds of thousands of poor people and foisted other calamities on the city. But yes, he thought big.
So, while it was encouraging that the governor championed Penn’s cause, it was odd that he channeled Moses only to come up with what sounded like glassy new lobbies and shopping malls to improve the station’s ambience.
He passed on the really big idea: moving Madison Square Garden.