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Second Twin Cities Train

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Second Twin Cities Train
Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, March 30, 2023 12:25 AM

FYI-,

Just got a newsletter from MnDOT and WiDOT published jointly and the startup is still tentatively scheduled for fall 2023 it says TBD with the marker in the fall part of this year.    The proposed schedule is below:

Dp St. Paul:    11:47 a.m.

Ar Milwaukee   5:40 p.m.

Ar Chicago      7:14 p.m.

 

Dp Chicago    11:05 a.m.

Ar Milwaukee  12:34 p.m.

Ar St. Paul      6:16 p.m.

Approx meeting point for both trains:    Somewhere between Tomah and Wisconsin Dells.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, March 30, 2023 12:47 AM

Hope it will not be delayed if something stalls the CPKCS merger beyond April 14.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, March 30, 2023 7:32 AM

Why not continue on to somewhere TBD in Minneapolis?

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, March 30, 2023 11:43 AM

charlie hebdo
Why not continue on to somewhere TBD in Minneapolis?

That's an interesting question; I'm not familiar enough with short final in the Twin Cities to know whether a stop in St. Paul with good connections to Minneapolis is 'better or worse' than a stop in St. Paul with only a short continuation to Minneapolis as a 'one-seat ride'.

Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can give the specific costs and difficulties for the 'expansion', including comparison of turning the train in the two locations. 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, March 30, 2023 6:44 PM

Is there new equipment in the pipeline?

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, March 31, 2023 9:08 AM

MidlandMike

Is there new equipment in the pipeline?

 

Undoubtedly, although there was some disagreement here in oast as to how many equipment sets were needed snd source within Midwest as I recall.

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Posted by dpeltier on Friday, March 31, 2023 9:11 AM

charlie hebdo

Why not continue on to somewhere TBD in Minneapolis?

 

The alternatives analysis for a program like this is always available online. If you are interested in details, you can Google the project website and read the environmental documents. For this project, I believe they borrowed heavily from the high speed rail study of 2012 (when there was talk of extending the Madison HSR line to St. Paul, before Madison HSR was canceled).

Short summary, though:

- There is no Amtrak station in Minneapolis. There is a commuter rail station at Target Field, which has little in the way of waiting rooms, nothing in the way of facilities for Amtrak customer-facing operations or personnel, and is difficult to access by car whenever the Twins are playing a baseball game.

- I believe Amtrak services trains (toilets, water, etc.) at St. Paul Union Depot (SPUD). They also have some facilities near the old Amtrak station (Midway), which is halfway between SPUD and Target Field. If they service the train at SPUD or Midway on its revenue run, the delay will be great enough to kill the time advantage of a one-seat ride versus driving or transit to St. Paul. Instead they would have to deadhead from Target Field back to Midway or SPUD for servicing, which brings us to

- The route from SPUD to Target Field goes through some busy freight junctions in the center of the BNSF and UP intermodal facilities. BNSF spent tens of millions of dollars to improve freight flows in this area less than a decade ago. I doubt Amtrak is going to get four additional moves per day (two revenue and two deadhead) through there without paying for improvements. And as the person who was in charge of that BNSF improvement project, I can tell you there aren't any obvious next steps to take right there that don't involve insanely expensive and politically unacceptable demolition.

Dan

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Posted by bill613a on Saturday, April 1, 2023 12:04 PM

Why not tweek the endpoint times to allow the train to run-Chicago-Fargo?

CMStPnP

FYI-,

Just got a newsletter from MnDOT and WiDOT published jointly and the startup is still tentatively scheduled for fall 2023 it says TBD with the marker in the fall part of this year.    The proposed schedule is below:

Dp St. Paul:    11:47 a.m.

Ar Milwaukee   5:40 p.m.

Ar Chicago      7:14 p.m.

 

Dp Chicago    11:05 a.m.

Ar Milwaukee  12:34 p.m.

Ar St. Paul      6:16 p.m.

Approx meeting point for both trains:    Somewhere between Tomah and Wisconsin Dells.

 

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, April 1, 2023 6:04 PM

Last time on Builder going thru Midway  too many hand throw switches.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, April 1, 2023 7:47 PM

I don't want to obligate Dan Peltier but I'd like to hear his opinions on this 400-mile-odd round trip to Fargo presumably through Minneapolis and its concerns.

Is there regular enough traffic to and from Fargo (including unversity students) to justify the extension costs?  Thruway bus extension to Grand Forks?

Would there be enough hard use by intermediate communities to make the politically-desired intermediate stops, wherever they'd be, practical either?

Where would you turn and service the train in Fargo?

Perhaps most important, what's North Dakota's fair share of the 'corridor subsidy' that almost without doubt would apply to this service, considering the very small actual route mileage in that state?

I am extremely mindful that 94 and 29 were just shut down for weather.  But our current Amtrak would surely cancel the train for anything serious enough to close an Interstate...

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, April 1, 2023 10:29 PM

Overmod

I don't want to obligate Dan Peltier but I'd like to hear his opinions on this 400-mile-odd round trip to Fargo presumably through Minneapolis and its concerns.

Is there regular enough traffic to and from Fargo (including unversity students) to justify the extension costs?  Thruway bus extension to Grand Forks?

Would there be enough hard use by intermediate communities to make the politically-desired intermediate stops, wherever they'd be, practical either?

Where would you turn and service the train in Fargo?

Perhaps most important, what's North Dakota's fair share of the 'corridor subsidy' that almost without doubt would apply to this service, considering the very small actual route mileage in that state?

I am extremely mindful that 94 and 29 were just shut down for weather.  But our current Amtrak would surely cancel the train for anything serious enough to close an Interstate...

 

Turning trains is a problem. Since the consists are usually fixed I would think Amtrak should start moving away from loco hauled trains outside the NEC.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Sunday, April 2, 2023 9:53 AM

Push-pulls would be reasonable solution to the turning problems.  It has worked wonders on various suburban services and Amtrak uses them on short hauls out of Chicago.

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 Overmod on Sunday, April 2, 2023 10:23 AM

"Turning" trains (in this context) does not mean reversing their direction -- it means the same thing as 'turning' a hotel room or a restaurant table.  Cleaning, reprovisioning, makeready.

To the extent 'reversing the direction of travel' is involved -  'top and tail' or cabbage/cab car on the other 'end' from the power, or assigning something like an Airo set to this extended 'corridor' trip, takes care of the issue.  If we can tolerate brief interruptions of power due to the deflicted implementation of Amtrak HEP, just set up a 'shore power' location and connect the train while a locomotive consist runs around the train or goes to be wyed somewhere.

It is kinda-sorta possible that much of the effort involved with turn maintenance could be conducted in an 'extended' stop at St. Paul, with the out-and-back trip to Fargo treated as if it were its own 400-odd-mile corridor trip.  Then the only 'difficulty concern' would be, as charlie hebdo noted, efficiently reversing the direction of travel at the chosen 'endpoint' at Fargo.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Sunday, April 2, 2023 11:23 AM

IMO it is more important to get the CHI - MSP second train going.  It all comes down to what happens in the next 2 weeks.  Can we anticipate some entity filing a lawsuit to stop the CP / KCS combination?  Any injunction will probably mess up this route, NOL - BTR, and MEI - FTW.  Just holding my breath.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, April 2, 2023 4:44 PM

What was the proposed expanded route that was going to be worked with an Airo (or Airo-style) trainset, perhaps with a cab car on one end instead of top and tail?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, April 2, 2023 8:49 PM

bill613a
Why not tweek the endpoint times to allow the train to run-Chicago-Fargo?

   I have the Emails of the DOT contacts for MN and WI for this project and I think you can Google and get them from the website as well if you want I can post a link.    However, you can ask them directly and they might answer you.     I think the issue there is MN is unwilling to pay for that and I am not sure ND will contribute.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, April 2, 2023 8:52 PM

Overmod
perhaps with a cab car on one end instead of top and tail?

Wisconsin has three cab cars on order from Siemens.   No idea if they have been delivered yet but they want to convert the entire Hiawatha Service to Cab Car on one end and Locomotive on the other.    They stated the cement full F40 Cabbage weigh too much and burn too much fuel per trip.    They also don't like the loco at end setup.

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Posted by dpeltier on Monday, April 3, 2023 12:07 AM

Overmod

I don't want to obligate Dan Peltier but I'd like to hear his opinions on this 400-mile-odd round trip to Fargo presumably through Minneapolis and its concerns.

The web page for the project to add a second Amtrak train to the Twin Cities is https://www.dot.state.mn.us/passengerrail/tc-mil-chi/.

About halfway down the page is a section called "Studies", and the first link there is to the 2015 feasibility report, which Amtrak performed at MnDOT's request after the Wisconsin HSR died. They studied four routes in Minnesota: to SPUD, to Target Field in Minneapolis, to St. Cloud, MN with a stop at Target Field (requiring a backup move), or to St. Cloud with no stop at Target Field (possibly with a stop at the Fridley commuter rail station). I haven't read it, but I would suggest that those who are interested should do so.

The thing to understand about Minnesota is that 55% of the state's population (about 3.2 million people) live in the seven counties that are part of the Metropolitan Council (the regional planning and services authority that, among other things, provides sewer and public transit services to its region). Much of the rest lives in the southeast quarter of the state. There's just not many people to serve going west or north from the Twin Cities. The Twin Cities, like Kansas City or DFW, owe their historical prominence largely to the fact that they are on the western edge of civilization. (Civilization in the sense of a diversified  economy including including urban commercial centers and industry - I am NOT saying that the good folks of the Great Plains are uncivilized!)

There are three ways you could hypothetically extend a Saint Paul train to Fargo. The first would be to follow the current Empire Builder route, which uses the former NP line most of the way. This was not studied, but a shorter extension along this route WAS studied: to St. Cloud. Compared to Fargo, St. Cloud has a similar metro population (200k vs. 230k), is an existing home base for Empire Builder train crews, has its own state university (SCSU) with a bigger enrollment than NDSU, and is only 70 miles away from the Twin Cities instead of 230. Oh, and the St. Cloud station sits within a wye, so you could literally turn the train quite easily. If they found that an extension to St. Cloud was not justified, there's no way Fargo would be.

The second route is the original GM Empire Builder route. The sole advantage of this line is that Target Field Station is built on it. Unfortunately, it is a terrible way to get to Fargo, as it is largely 40-MPH single track and hits no population centers along the way larger than Willmar (metro population 40k).

The third hypothetical route would be to take the CP mainline part of the way and then hop on the GN route at Tintah, MN. This has operationally problematic connections in Northeast Minneapolis, is single track, and serves neither downtown Minneapolis nor any population centers of note. Really more a theoretical possibility than an option.

As far as railroad operations go: take a look at the Twin Cities metro rail map at https://edocs-public.dot.state.mn.us/edocs_public/DMResultSet/download?docId=19991882. (The rail lines are shown correctly on this map, as are Target Field and Union Depot; the freight rail yards, on the other hand, are badly misplaced and / or mislabeled.)

There really is only one way to go west from SPUD without a backup move (unless you count the UP line southwest towards Mankato and Sioux City IA). Extending the new train to Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Duluth, or anywhere else north and west of St. Paul would all travel the whole length of the Minnesota Commercial's rail yard and bisect the BNSF intermodal yard just as the Empire Builder does today.

It's probably worth mentioning in this conversation that some people are still pushing hard to institute a multiple-trips-per-day rail service from Duluth, MN to Target Field Station, branded "Northern Lights Express" or NLX. I genuinely thought this idea would die out once Rep. Oberstar, who represented Duluth and was head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, lost his reelection bid in 2010, but it has sort of carried on. I still think the odds against it ever actually turning a wheel are very, very long. But if it did, one could imagine the second Chicago - Twin Cities train extending to Duluth (with a Target Field stop and a backup move) more easily than Fargo.

Dan

 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 12:44 AM

So who owns the rail line or former rail right of way that heads North from SPUD to Cardigan Junction? 

Seems to me that Minnesota has an option there.......though a lot more expensive to cut a significant dog leg off the SPUD to Minneapolis and then Northeast routing.

It's that dogleg that is making the line uncompetitive, in my view.

The problem I have with these Amtrak proposals is some of the routes like this one are going to be real difficult to get competitive travel times and to me it just looks like Amtrak does not care.

Geez DFW took a 70 mile largely abandoned or sunk in the Mud Rock Island line and redid the rail to turn it into partly double track 70 mph Commuter Rail line with Bombardier Cars.   Including LOTS of new concrete overpasses and some elevated portions.    Seems Amtrak and it's proponents in Congress always shy away from a project like that and attempt to make a questionable late 1800's or early 1900's rail alignment viable that is seriously handicapped from the start.

You can't always build or rebuild a rail corridor on a Beer Budget.    Outside the sprawl of the Twin Cities this cooridor is mostly rural.....so C'mon spend a little more money for the future and do it right.

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Posted by dpeltier on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 5:52 PM

CMStPnP

So who owns the rail line or former rail right of way that heads North from SPUD to Cardigan Junction? 

That is CP.

The Soo Line came in from the east, and at Cardigan Junction it split into two lines: one to Shoreham Yard and Minneapolis, and one to St. Paul.

The line to Saint Paul flew over the NP near Jackson and Arlington streets, paralleled the NP down the Trout Brook Valley, and had its own tunnel near the NP tunnels. It ended at SPUD and the Soo Line freight terminal on 4th St. At the flyover location, there was a connection from the NP to the Cardigan Junction / St. Paul line. This connection is still there (it's called Soo Line Junction); south of there, most of the line St. Paul branch of the Soo Line is abandoned and the land incorporated into the relatively new Trout Brook Nature Preserve.

The only connection between CP's former Soo Line properties and their former Milwaukee Road properties is by trackage rights over BNSF.

This line from Soo Line Junction on the NP to Cardigan Junction - and then from there to Shoreham Yard -  was very lightly used until about 2013. Until then CP trains used their BNSF trackage rights all the way from Hoffman to the University control point at Shoreham Yard. To reduce congestion at University, CP rehabbed the line up through Cardigan Junction and started running most of their westbound trains that way instead. (I understand that somewhere between Shoreham and Cardigan there is a killer eastbound grade, hence why it is used for westbounds only.)

Seems to me that Minnesota has an option there.......though a lot more expensive to cut a significant dog leg off the SPUD to Minneapolis and then Northeast routing.

It's that dogleg that is making the line uncompetitive, in my view.

Sorry, I'm a little lost. Which service are you referring to when you say "making the line uncompetitive"? The line you are referring to does not help you get between St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis, nor does it avoid backup moves at either location.

Are you talking about a potential St. Paul to Duluth service? To get from Cardigan Junction to Duluth would require rebuilding the NP's Skally Line between Hugo and North Branch, which has been rail-trailed. More importantly, I don't think the NLX people are particularly interested in bypassing Minneapolis. They seem happy to just end at Minneapolis.

Dan

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 11:24 PM

dpeltier
Are you talking about a potential St. Paul to Duluth service?

Yes

dpeltier
To get from Cardigan Junction to Duluth would require rebuilding the NP's Skally Line between Hugo and North Branch, which has been rail-trailed.

 

How many miles of that and what would be the cost to put rail down for 6 passenger trains a day with signaling?

dpeltier
I don't think the NLX people are particularly interested in bypassing Minneapolis.

They probably have not considered it an option because Amtrak is acting like a candy man vs a consultant to the project.    Which is again part of the issue.    We have the same issue in Wisconsin with Amtraks proposed Milwaukee to Green Bay service.    Again they want to dog leg at the start by taking the train way out West of Milwaukee and then junctioning with the CN (former Soo Line) at Duplainville.    Why this route?   Because it is cheap and involves minimal track work.    Yet using that route cuts heavily into train travel time, additionally they are fighting against CP's mainline traffic from Wauwatosa to Duplainville.     Amtrak as candyman:  "Lets just get the train running because we have the money now, we do not really care if the schedule is time competitive with the auto or not".

Thankfully WisDOT is smarter and sees a faster option via the last C&NW exit using Northern Milwaukee and laying new rail over a bike trail.......not sure if that vision will prevail.   Had a discussion on this route with another poster and he said it was slow and the WisDOT study agrees but in the study mentions lifting a lot of the yard limit speeds and adding track to make the exit from North Milwaukee a lot faster.   WisDOT is thinking longer term than Amtrak because it knows who will be paying for the crappy route in a few years time.

Anyways, seems to me the Minneapolis to Duluth route is almost the same issue facing it as Amtrak's Milwaukee to Green Bay routing.    Yet Amtrak is not even saying anything to MnDOT or telling them there might be a faster way because it seems Amtrak does not care about subsidies in the out years.    It only wants the train and the new route because it has the money in it's pockets now.

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Posted by dpeltier on Friday, April 7, 2023 9:19 AM

CMStPnP
dpeltier
I don't think the NLX people are particularly interested in bypassing Minneapolis.

They probably have not considered it an option because Amtrak is acting like a candy man vs a consultant to the project. 

Again, if you go online you can find the alternatives analysis. Look in chapter 3 of the Tier I EA:

https://railroads.dot.gov/sites/fra.dot.gov/files/fra_net/3033/NLX%20EA_130311_signed.pdf

Note that the EA was completed in 2013 but the route selection was apparently completed in 2010. Of the three "finalist" routes, two of them went through Cardigan Junction and involved using the Skally Line south of Hinckley, just as you suggested. However, by the definition of the study, all of the routes had to serve Minneapolis. Only one of the three finalists involved service to St. Paul - that one went to St. Paul via the Soo Line from Cardigan Junction as you described, continued to Minneapolis Junction via the current Empire Builder route, and served Target Field over the 2-mile stretch of the Wayzata Sub that Northstar uses. That made it a slow and circuitous route for Minneapolis passengers, who were expected to provide the bulk of the potential ridership. They did not study any routes that serves Minneapolis first and then continued to St. Paul. This may be in part due to the fact that the route selection study was performed prior to the redevelopmemt of SPUD into a would-be transportation hub that.

(For some reason Target Field Station is referred to in these documents as "The Interchange". I think that is a name Met Transit was pushing during construction of the Green Line LRT, which involved extending the existing LRT tracks in downtown Minneapolis to Target Field to create a transit hub that, predictably, never became popular with actual riders. Anyhow, the name didn't stick.)

I don't believe Amtrak had much to do with these studies either as Candyman or consultant. At this point they were still talking about 110-MPH operation and eight round trips a day, and I don't think they were necessarily planning to have Amtrak operate the trains at that time.

Anyways, seems to me the Minneapolis to Duluth route is almost the same issue facing it as Amtrak's Milwaukee to Green Bay routing.    Yet Amtrak is not even saying anything to MnDOT or telling them there might be a faster way because it seems Amtrak does not care about subsidies in the out years.    It only wants the train and the new route because it has the money in it's pockets now.

Frankly, I haven't seen much evidence that Amtrak is interested in Minneapolis / Duluth at all - which makes sense, given that it is disconnected from their existing network. It's the advocates along the route who did all the preliminary design and environmental studies, and then ran into the problem of not having any money for construction. PRIIA is just something they've latched onto as a way to fund construction of an idea that's been around for well over a decade.

Dan

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, April 8, 2023 1:57 PM

Another major factor in planning routes should be population:

Duluth MSA 290K

Madison MSA 501K

Rochester MSA 227K

Minneapolis alone 425k

 

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