Passenger service Eau Claire to St Paul

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Passenger service Eau Claire to St Paul
Posted by aricat on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 5:35 PM

I was pleased to read in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that there is a proposal to begin passenger service from Eau Claire Wisconsin to St Paul. They called it a public private partnership and no where was the word Amtrak used by the Star Tribune reporter. This passenger service is needed first of all. The proposal is to buy the trackage now operated by UP, double track the line, then use the line for both fast passenger service and UP freights. The plan was to run multiple passenger trains over the line as well as UP freights. The Eau Claire St Paul corridor is already a commuter corridor to the Twin Cities and there are lots of trucks on I-94. Eau Claire has not had passenger rail service since 1963. Western Wisconsin is growing.

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Posted by NP Eddie on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 9:52 PM

I am a bit skeptical about this plan as I can't see the UP (X-CNW) allowing the plan to happen. One is talking about lots money to double track this route and probably built another bridge across the St. Croix River. During the 1980's or so, the Mississippi River flooded and took out both the BN and Milw lines to LaCrosse. The CNW only allowed a certain number of detour trains on their tracks due to capacity issues.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 9:58 PM

NP Eddie

I am a bit skeptical about this plan as I can't see the UP (X-CNW) allowing the plan to happen. One is talking about lots money to double track this route and probably built another bridge across the St. Croix River. During the 1980's or so, the Mississippi River flooded and took out both the BN and Milw lines to LaCrosse. The CNW only allowed a certain number of detour trains on their tracks due to capacity issues.

 

Why would the UP refuse when the two states or some local districts would pay for the double tracking etc. by buying it?  If they blocked this, possibly the threat of eminent domain would help change their mind?

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Posted by Gramp on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 10:31 PM

Not much population for so much cost.  

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, June 21, 2018 6:44 AM

Based on the current political climate in Wisconsin, I don't foresee any public money coming for this proposal any time soon. 

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, June 21, 2018 4:48 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
Based on the current political climate in Wisconsin, I don't foresee any public money coming for this proposal any time soon. 

.......and yet they are working on a $250 million proposal to expand Chicago to Milwaukee rail passenger service.   

 

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Thursday, June 21, 2018 4:53 PM

The original article says the proponent is an Eau Claire based non profit that has been talking about this for 20 years, and is proudly described by one of its consultants as "a real grass roots effort".

Cost to build the line, the reporter's misunderstanding of the need to add second main track is reported to range from $100 to $250 million, and fares "will likely cover the cost of operatig it". My comment is the capex is far too low. 85 miles at $10 million per mile is $850 million. I guess they believe in the track fairy. In that case the real amount is irrelevant.

Airicat can not read. There is NO proposal to buy the line from the UP reported in the story.

In answer to Charlie Hebdo, the UP is very unlikely to sell because they would give up control, that is dispatching, in such a deal. That is selling the birth right for a mess of pottage, a very bad idea. UP has a herd of lawyer to fight any eminent domain threat and it would never get that far. UP would probably be happy to run the train if they got paid enough to do so.

This is not a serious project, it is not even a proposal. Go back to sleep on this one.

Mac

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, June 21, 2018 6:38 PM

PNWRMNM
Airicat can not read. There is NO proposal to buy the line from the UP reported in the story. In answer to Charlie Hebdo, the UP is very unlikely to sell because they would give up control, that is dispatching, in such a deal. That is selling the birth right for a mess of pottage, a very bad idea. UP has a herd of lawyer to fight any eminent domain threat and it would never get that far. UP would probably be happy to run the train if they got paid enough to do so.

You are correct.  No proposal to purchase the ROW.  [from the Star-Tribune]:

The majority of the 85-mile route is owned by Union Pacific Corp., and an agreement would be needed to share the corridor with its freight trains.

 

Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South confirmed that the Omaha-based rail company has had “preliminary discussions” with the Eau Claire consortium. “We’re certainly open to the possibility,” she said.  David Christianson, a coalition member who is a retired rail planner for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said, “You really have to have double track along the majority of the line so fast trains will not interfere with slow freight trains and impede your reliability.”

The latter point seems way off the mark.  However, an article  published in 2015 points out low freight volume on the route, how many sidings and low track speed (at that time). The main work would be lengthening sidings (the route was once double-tacked and ran fast varnish) and thus would not be so expensive.

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Posted by aricat on Friday, June 22, 2018 7:37 AM

I am eating my humble pie! I stand corrected. I made an assumption reading the article that the only practical way this would work would be for UP to sell that line to the potential operator of the service. It wouldn't work any othr way.

This part of Wisconsin is the fastest growing part of the state. The area in gthe next fifty years will become more suburban and exurban than it is today.

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Friday, June 22, 2018 10:19 AM

aricat

I made an assumption reading the article that the only practical way this would work would be for UP to sell that line to the potential operator of the service. It wouldn't work any othr way.

There is another way that is used very often. It is called purchase of service. This is how METRA runs on BNSF, and I think UP, in Chicago.

The proponent comes to the railroad and says I want to do this and that on this schedule. The railroad says we are willing to provide the service but you must make us whole against the delays you are going to impose and we can not loose any freight service capacity. The proponent hires a consultant that the railroad approves of. The consultant says you need these capital improvements and they will cost about this many millions of dollars. From the article, it looks like the proponent's consultant has decided that the line needs to be two main tracks. OK, that will cost $400-500 million dollars if the line was once double track, meaning no dirt work and no permit hassles. I suspect the UP would go along with that.

Once the capex is settled, the railroad says "We will supply the crews and bill you x amount per round trip". Do you want any additional services like fuel or mechnaical inspections? They negotiate these, and other, issues in the purchase of service contract.

The proponent pays the capex up front and purchases service until they run out of money. This is as good a structure of a deal as the proponent is going to get.

The railroad will not sell an asset that is of any current or probable future use to it because if they do they loose control and are at the not so tender mercies of the new, passenger oriented dont give a damn about freight service, owner.

Mac

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, June 22, 2018 10:52 AM

PNWRMNM
The original article says the proponent is an Eau Claire based non profit that has been talking about this for 20 years, and is proudly described by one of its consultants as "a real grass roots effort". Cost to build the line, the reporter's misunderstanding of the need to add second main track is reported to range from $100 to $250 million, and fares "will likely cover the cost of operatig it". My comment is the capex is far too low. 85 miles at $10 million per mile is $850 million. I guess they believe in the track fairy. In that case the real amount is irrelevant. Airicat can not read. There is NO proposal to buy the line from the UP reported in the story. In answer to Charlie Hebdo, the UP is very unlikely to sell because they would give up control, that is dispatching, in such a deal. That is selling the birth right for a mess of pottage, a very bad idea. UP has a herd of lawyer to fight any eminent domain threat and it would never get that far. UP would probably be happy to run the train if they got paid enough to do so. This is not a serious project, it is not even a proposal. Go back to sleep on this one. Mac

The other thing of course......when the state was in the opposing party hands and big spender Governor at the time was approached by Eau Claire groups to reroute the proposed High Speed Rail route via Eau Claire.......he told them no as well.    It really has absolute zero to do with the political climate.   Hell, if you can't get free spending Governor Doyle to spend money on it......it means your business case stinks to high heaven.

It is not so much the cost as it is the lack of support among business and civic leaders in Eau Claire, plus are reroute to dog leg the route NORTH then WEST would have cost time on train schedules as well as money on construction costs.    There is just not enough people in or around Eau Claire and the Eau Claire group could not layout a case where the costs were not astronomical vs the benefits.

If the Eau Claire citizenry were just fanatic about this rail connection, politically Wisconsin would overlook the costs and build it.    However, as I understand things they could not muster enough people to support it to even register a "luke warm" on the infrastructure project priority scale.    Compared to say the Chicago to Milwaukee corridor which is hot to red hot among the Milwaukee Business Community (hence you have a Republican Governor spending money on Chicago to Milwaukee).

You really have to understand how politics work before you can make the statement that politics is blocking a project.    Because as I stated numerous times before rail passenger service is bipartisan.    One party requires a business case and the other will let a half-azzed reason pass as a justification as long as it is not too political costly.   Either way no political party is really opposed to Amtrak or expanded state subsidized passenger service.......they just have two different thresholds to reach before they jump on board.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, June 22, 2018 11:40 AM

PNWRMNM
From the article, it looks like the proponent's consultant has decided that the line needs to be two main tracks.

Read the 2nd article.  No 2nd track needed.  Just a few sidings. Did you notice the traffic density?  Not many freights at the time of the original study (4 daily).  The addition of either 2 RTs or 4RT, i.e., 4-8 passenger trains daily means a total of 8-12 trains on weekdays.  Additionally, "the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls-Menomonie Combined Metropolitan Statistical Area now reaches a population of almost 210,000."  Some in that area say the area in WI east of the Twin Cities is becoming an extended suburb. The new group talks about a private/public model.  Perhaps the relevant counties should establish a transit district for the public funding side, forget about the states.

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Friday, June 22, 2018 12:35 PM

charlie hebdo

The only article I have is June 20, which quotes David Christianson, a retired rail planner for MN DOT, as saying "You really have to have double track along the majority of the line so fast trains will not interfere with slow freight trains and impede your reliability."

I have made no claims about current traffic level because I have no clue.

Mac

 

 
PNWRMNM
From the article, it looks like the proponent's consultant has decided that the line needs to be two main tracks.

 

Read the 2nd article.  No 2nd track needed.  Just a few sidings. Did you notice the traffic density?  Not many freights at the time of the original study (4 daily).  The addition of either 2 RTs or 4RT, i.e., 4-8 passenger trains daily means a total of 8-12 trains on weekdays.  Additionally, "the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls-Menomonie Combined Metropolitan Statistical Area now reaches a population of almost 210,000."  Some in that area say the area in WI east of the Twin Cities is becoming an extended suburb. The new group talks about a private/public model.  Perhaps the relevant counties should establish a transit district for the public funding side, forget about the states.

 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, June 22, 2018 1:30 PM

PNWRMNM
charlie hebdo The only article I have is June 20, which quotes David Christianson, a retired rail planner for MN DOT, as saying "You really have to have double track along the majority of the line so fast trains will not interfere with slow freight trains and impede your reliability." I have made no claims about current traffic level because I have no clue. Mac

As I said before, read the 2nd article   which I posted earlier.

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Posted by PJS1 on Sunday, June 24, 2018 8:57 AM

aricat
 I was pleased to read in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that there is a proposal to begin passenger service from Eau Claire Wisconsin to St Paul. 

The population of Eau Claire County was 103,671 as of July 1, 2017.  It is roughly 85 miles from Eau Claire to St. Paul, which at least from looking at the map, appears to be an easy drive on I-94. 

Greyhound has three schedules a day between Eau Claire and St. Paul/Minneapolis or vice versa, although many of them are at inconvenient hours.  

Trains can be a potentially effective passenger transport solution in high density markets, but this route does appear to have any of these attributes.  Is this a solution chasing a problem?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, June 24, 2018 9:50 AM

PJS1
The population of Eau Claire County was 103,671 as of July 1, 2017.  It is roughly 85 miles from Eau Claire to St. Paul, which at least from looking at the map, appears to be an easy drive on I-94. 

Had to laugh at that because they are arguing over weather to extend DART to McKinney, TX which will have a buildout population of 350,000 faster than Eau Clarie County will grow.    I don't see Wisconsin paying to fund rail service to that small amount of population base.    Green Bay, would be a priority over Eau Claire and Green Bay is in the long term Wisconsin / Amtrak rail plan.     Eau Claire is not.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, June 24, 2018 2:31 PM

PJS1
The population of Eau Claire County was 103,671 as of July 1, 2017.  It is roughly 85 miles from Eau Claire to St. Paul

Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls-Menomonie Combined Metropolitan Statistical Area now reaches a population of almost 210,000.  Planners usually refer to CMSAs.

 

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Posted by PJS1 on Sunday, June 24, 2018 3:35 PM

charlie hebdo
The population of Eau Claire County was 103,671 as of July 1, 2017.  It is roughly 85 miles from Eau Claire to St. Paul

Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls-Menomonie Combined Metropolitan Statistical Area now reaches a population of almost 210,000.  Planners usually refer to CMSAs. 

 

That is true to an extent.  But it is only a starting point.  The devil is in the details, i.e. figuring out the real makret for public transport of any stripe.  The MSA core population in 2015 was 129,665.

Irrespective of whatever population number one wants to use for planning purposes, the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls MSA or CMSA population does not appear large enough to support a passenger train between Eau Claire and Minneapolis/St. Paul.   

It is 13.4 miles from Chippewa Falls to Eau Claire, where the station presumably would be located.  It is 23.6 miles from Menomonie to Eau Claire, and it is a reverse direction drive.  So, the question becomes how many people would drive to Eau Claire, park their car, and board a train?  

Studies have also shown that once people are in their car, unless they are in a high dense environment, they tend to stay in the car as opposed to switching modes of transport. 

Even in the DFW area, which has an area population of more than seven million people, the Trinity Railway Express, which runs between Fort Worth and Dallas, had a 9.9 percent decline in average weekday ridership between 2014 and the end of 2016.  Not everyone in the DFW Metroplex is a potential rider because of where they live, but Trinity Railway Express anchors two relatively large cities with burgeoning downtown resident populations.  

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, June 24, 2018 10:03 PM

PJS1
It is 23.6 miles from Menomonie to Eau Claire, and it is a reverse direction drive.  So, the question becomes how many people would drive to Eau Claire, park their car, and board a train?  

Answer.  They wouldn't.  The line would have a station at Menomonie Jct. about a mile north of the main town.  I don't live there, and obviously you know nothing about the area.  But a good friend of mine who lives in that area says it is growing rapidly in recent years, mostly with commuters to the TC.  I 94 is busy at rush hour. Hudson, WI is also growing rapidly as a suburb (doubling from 2000 to 2010).  It's in the TC CMSA.

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Posted by PJS1 on Sunday, June 24, 2018 10:26 PM

charlie hebdo
 PJS1 It is 23.6 miles from Menomonie to Eau Claire, and it is a reverse direction drive.  So, the question becomes how many people would drive to Eau Claire, park their car, and board a train?   

Answer.  They wouldn't.  The line would have a station at Menomonie Jct. about a mile north of the main town.  I don't live there, and obviously you know nothing about the area.  But a good friend of mine who lives in that area says it is growing rapidly in recent years, mostly with commuters to the TC.  I 94 is busy at rush hour. Hudson, WI is also growing rapidly as a suburb (doubling from 2000 to 2010).  It's in the TC CMSA. 

Your are right.  I have never been to the area.  I don't believe I said or implied that I had been. 

I said it does not appear from the population data that there are enough people to support a passenger train.  The key work is "appear".

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Posted by FRED CAPPELLER on Monday, June 25, 2018 9:32 PM

Now imagine something completely different...Passenger service from St. Paul to Eau Claire....and Black River Falls...and WI Dells....and Dane Airport and Madison, Janesville, Arlington Heights, Ohare Transfer and Chicago in FIVE hours or so. Empire Builder happens once a day and takes EIGHT hours to downtown and an easy hour to either airport. A faster, straighter route would make a lot of train options for a lot of travelers to this underserved region. Over a million a year fly between MSP and ORD or MDW, and a bunch more to/fro MSN. Its time.

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Posted by Boyd on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 12:30 AM

I have spent a lot of time on an old farm near the Lake Elmo airport. 2-4 freights a day isn’t even close. The traffic seems to vary but in the past I have seen a train every 20 minutes. I’d see eastbound freights every 20 minutes for 2-4 hours,,, then westbound freights every 20 minutes for another 2-4 hours. I don’t spend as much time on this certain property now so I don’t know how many trains pass per day. But I don’t imagine UP doing anything to lose capacity on a line between two major metropolitan areas. Maybe some day Light Rail would use the path of where the 2nd track used to be to add service to Lake Elmo, Stillwater, Bayport and Oak Park Heights? That might not happen for 30 years. Decades ago there were 3 tracks at Osgood by 47th street and the 3rd track was for a station just to the west of Osgood. On some maps it’s Siegel. I have some videos of the area on YouTube under my name Boyd W. 

Modeling the "Fargo Area Rapid Transit" in O scale 3 rail.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 7:45 AM

Boyd

I have spent a lot of time on an old farm near the Lake Elmo airport. 2-4 freights a day isn’t even close. The traffic seems to vary but in the past I have seen a train every 20 minutes. I’d see eastbound freights every 20 minutes for 2-4 hours,,, then westbound freights every 20 minutes for another 2-4 hours. I don’t spend as much time on this certain property now so I don’t know how many trains pass per day. 

Your tally does not appear to jive with a more official count mentioned in the 2nd article concerning the 2015 study which says "the Federal Railroad Administration’s Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory suggests that there are only about four freight trains per day,"

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Posted by kgbw49 on Thursday, June 28, 2018 10:26 PM

There is a veritable river of lucrative frac sand traffic pouring off the Wisconsin Northern to the UP at Eau Claire. (“Fly“ the route with Google Maps and you will see all the major sand operations on the route.) It is the former route of The 400 so is the stomping grounds of the most powerful Pacifics ever built - the Omaha Road E-3 with over 51,000 lbs of tractive effort.

It would need much more double track, but the big problem is that hardly anybody commutes to downtown St. Paul from Eau Claire. The Twin Cities metropolitan area has a very distributed commercial and industrial base and only a small fraction of it is located in downtown St. Paul.

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