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Amtrak Minneapolis to Duluth train funding passed by MN Legislature.

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Amtrak Minneapolis to Duluth train funding passed by MN Legislature.
Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, May 26, 2023 9:38 PM
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Posted by Gramp on Saturday, May 27, 2023 1:21 AM

It says trains will run to Target Field Station by Amtrak. So then there won't be a direct connection to existing Amtrak service?

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, May 27, 2023 7:56 AM

They made it clear in the story that the $195M was to 'unlock Federal grants' for 80% of the actual cost of the service (which they gave as $592M, so quite a few of the state millions are likely earmarked for consultants, etc.)

I expect this to be a captive Minnesota train, so across-platform or shuttle connections in Minneapolis rather than through operation to other states.  If demand warrants, I suspect the question could be 'revisited' later... if Wisconsin is prepared to cough up a share.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, May 27, 2023 1:06 PM

Overmod
They made it clear in the story that the $195M was to 'unlock Federal grants' for 80% of the actual cost of the service (which they gave as $592M, so quite a few of the state millions are likely earmarked for consultants, etc.) I expect this to be a captive Minnesota train, so across-platform or shuttle connections in Minneapolis rather than through operation to other states.  If demand warrants, I suspect the question could be 'revisited' later... if Wisconsin is prepared to cough up a share.

This is how things are now and I would agree.    Not necessarily how things will stay.   We'll see once it is up and running for a few years.   I think at some point they will officially go to either two Amtrak stations for Twin Cities and have all trains serve both or they will consolidate down to one.

Also will point out the Hiawatha extension to St. Paul's Union Station that will happen this fall or next year.    Amtrak was smart enough to put it in the contract with CP that the extension and the improvements being worked on are for two additional trains, though they are only implementing one right now.   So I thought that was a fairly intelligent move on Amtraks part to avoid another round of improvements demanded by CP with the next extension to St. Paul.    WisDOT also wants a future extension to branch North at Camp Douglas, WI to Eau Claire, WI and approach St. Paul over UP (former C&NW).    Not sure when they are going to attempt that.    They are trying for another Federally Funded study of Milwaukee to Green Bay in the immediate future.

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Posted by Gramp on Saturday, May 27, 2023 1:55 PM

CMStPnP

 

 
Overmod
They made it clear in the story that the $195M was to 'unlock Federal grants' for 80% of the actual cost of the service (which they gave as $592M, so quite a few of the state millions are likely earmarked for consultants, etc.) I expect this to be a captive Minnesota train, so across-platform or shuttle connections in Minneapolis rather than through operation to other states.  If demand warrants, I suspect the question could be 'revisited' later... if Wisconsin is prepared to cough up a share.

 

This is how things are now and I would agree.    Not necessarily how things will stay.   We'll see once it is up and running for a few years.   I think at some point they will officially go to either two Amtrak stations for Twin Cities and have all trains serve both or they will consolidate down to one.

Also will point out the Hiawatha extension to St. Paul's Union Station that will happen this fall or next year.    Amtrak was smart enough to put it in the contract with CP that the extension and the improvements being worked on are for two additional trains, though they are only implementing one right now.   So I thought that was a fairly intelligent move on Amtraks part to avoid another round of improvements demanded by CP with the next extension to St. Paul.    WisDOT also wants a future extension to branch North at Camp Douglas, WI to Eau Claire, WI and approach St. Paul over UP (former C&NW).    Not sure when they are going to attempt that.    They are trying for another Federally Funded study of Milwaukee to Green Bay in the immediate future.

 

Interesting about Camp Douglas. UP resurfaced the stub going southeast from Wyeville some years ago to build a frac sand loading facility along the segment. For years the line was unused or at best used for car storage.  It's cut north of Volk Field, but the Field is still served from the CP end. There's a fantastic view along a road there where I used to watch B-52's take off from Volk.  Rather like the scene in North By Northwest of the landing strip near Mt. Rushmore where James Mason was to make his getaway with Eve Marie Saint if you remember that movie. If the state is bent on a through route for Eau Claire, that connection would make sense. Very little population east of Eau Claire on UP to Milwaukee. Not a whole lot of construction needed to restore the route. Might be necessary to restore the crossing at Wyeville.  Long, long ago that was a hotspot for the Northwestern. 

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Posted by dpeltier on Monday, May 29, 2023 10:35 AM

Gramp

It says trains will run to Target Field Station by Amtrak. So then there won't be a direct connection to existing Amtrak service?

See https://cs.trains.com/trn/f/743/t/295113.aspx for some related discussion*.

Northern Lights Express was originally conceived as a higher speed rail link from Minneapolis to Duluth. It's no longer higher-speed, but the endpoints have been consistent for at least the last 15 years (long before Amtrak moved from their Midway station to SPUD).

An extension to St. Paul was studied, but rejected during the alternatives analysis. To serve both Target Field and St. Paul Union Depot (SPUD) would require a 1.5-ish mile backup move and the same slow, congested route through the St. Anthony interlocking and the Minnesota Commercial yard as the Empire Builder. The Green Line light rail service from Target Field to SPUD is extremely slow, but I'm not sure a passenger rail extension along the existing freight tracks would be much faster for serving folks in the eastern half of the Twin Cities metro. Taxi / ride-sharing would work for the very small number of people who would have any interest in connecting to the Empire Builder or the proposed new Chicago-TC train. It would also be theoretically possible to have the EB stop at a platform shared with the Duluth train in the northeast metro, but probably not feasible to have a staffed station or services for people with hours-long layovers.

On a side note: from a rail operations perspective, Target Field station (built in 2007 or so) is on the wrong side of the BNSF mainline. Had it been on the north side, it would have been possible to build out the infrastructure such that you could have run a hundred trains in and out of there with relatively little impact on freight traffic between the station, Minneapolis Junction, and Northtown Yard. Instead, all of the freight trains cross paths with all of the passenger trains. Oh well. Maybe the greedy sports teams will get themselves another new stadium in another 40 years and they can fix things then.

Dan

* I've tried multiple times to make this a link. Every time it shows up correctly as I'm editing it and then becomes static text when I save. Bummer.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 7:53 AM

dpeltier
The Green Line light rail service from Target Field to SPUD is extremely slow, but I'm not sure a passenger rail extension along the existing freight tracks would be much faster for serving folks in the eastern half of the Twin Cities metro.

Brief comment on this, Light Rail in this country just got started and is in its infancy.  I have not seen the plans for the light rail in the Twin Cities but I am sure there are plans for the near or intermediate future to address these issues as there are in Dallas with DART.   

dpeltier
On a side note: from a rail operations perspective, Target Field station (built in 2007 or so) is on the wrong side of the BNSF mainline. Had it been on the north side, it would have been possible to build out the infrastructure such that you could have run a hundred trains in and out of there with relatively little impact on freight traffic between the station, Minneapolis Junction, and Northtown Yard. Instead, all of the freight trains cross paths with all of the passenger trains. Oh well. Maybe the greedy sports teams will get themselves another new stadium in another 40 years and they can fix things then.

Agree on sports teams, cannot believe the Brewers are already complaining about Their stadium in Milwaukee and threatening to leave once again unless there is a $400-500 million commitment to invest through 2030 or some short date in the future.   Just ridiculous they make the demand while the current structure is still relatively new.    Milwaukee just needs to buy the Brewers like Green Bay did with the Packers...........long-term it is a lot cheaper just to own the team.

Anyways, back on topic, things maybe messed up today but I think longer-term the plan is to not have the helter-skelter approach to rail passenger service.   Dallas is doing similar with it's new transit system to save on initial build costs.   A lot of the spokes do not transit or travel into Dallas but connect with other transit trains.   Not sure it will stay that way and I think they did it to save on startup costs.    Once ridership hits a sustainable level or when it makes sense they will probably connect the spokes in a better fashion or just have them transit into Dallas Union Station.    Dallas Union Station capacity is constrained right now due to buildings surrounding it AND they stupidly sold the second floor off to the Hyatt across the tracks.    If they get the second floor back in their hands I think they could build an elevated platform for it and expand capacity at Dallas Union Station fairly significantly.   It would not be cheap but once ridership hits a certain level the convienence will outweigh the costs.

Using a Wisconsin example, initially they built the Airport Station in Milwaukee too small with only one platform which forces the trains to switch tracks for that station at times.   They have plans now to build a second platform for the other track but now they do not have the budget to build completely what they want there so initially they will take the cheap route on that second platform or make an attempt to get more funds.    They also need to expand that station to hold larger crowds which I am also certain is in the future plan but they do not have money for it now.   Parking lot could be expanded as well.

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