Amtrak cancels long-distance train service, including Empire Builder through Wisconsin, ahead of potential rail strike

Amtrak Cancels Long Distance Train Service, Including Empire Builder Through Wisconsin, Ahead Of Potential Rail Strike

A railroad crossing in McFarland on June 16, 2022. WISC-TV/Channel3000.

WASHINGTON — A looming freight rail strike that could start as soon as Friday is already having impacts on Amtrak passenger train travel across the country, including in Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, Amtrak announced it was canceling trips on three long-distance routes to avoid potential passenger disruptions. Among those routes is the Empire Builder route, which stops in Milwaukee, Columbus, Portage, the Wisconsin Dells, Tomah and La Crosse.

In an updated statement Wednesday afternoon, Amtrak said all of its long-distance train service will be canceled starting Thursday. Amtrak says that while its workforce is not affected by the potential strike, the passenger trains share tracks with freight trains and those tracks are owned by freight railroads.

“Amtrak is closely monitoring the ongoing freight rail – rail labor contract negotiations. The negotiations do not involve Amtrak or the Amtrak workforce. While we are hopeful that parties will reach a resolution, Amtrak has now begun phased adjustments to our service in preparation for a possible freight rail service interruption later this week. Such an interruption could significantly impact intercity passenger rail service, as Amtrak operates almost all of our 21,000 route miles outside the Northeast Corridor (NEC) on track owned, maintained, and dispatched by freight railroads. These initial adjustments include canceling all Long Distance trains and could be followed by impacts to most State-Supported routes. These adjustments are necessary to ensure trains can reach their terminals before freight railroad service interruption if a resolution in negotiations is not reached.”

EXPLAINER: Rail strike would impact consumers, businesses

Most trains in the Northeast Corridor which Amtrak owns would not be affected by a strike, the company said.

According to the Association of American Railroads, a nationwide interruption to rail service could cost the economy $2 billion per day.