Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago train route expected to begin service in 2024

Route would include daily stops at several area locations, including La Crosse, Winona and Tomah, transportation leaders say

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — La Crosse is a part of Amtrak’s Empire Builder route.

The passenger train travels daily from Chicago to Seattle or Portland.

But Amtrak leaders say the busiest portion of that route connects Chicago and the Twin Cities.

At La Crosse’s train station Wednesday, Amtrak and other transportation agencies unveiled a plan to help save passengers time and money.

The route connecting the Twin Cities with Chicago, and including La Crosse, is expected to be in service by 2024, officials said.

It would be called the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Intercity Passenger Rail, or the TCMC route.

The new route would carry both passengers and cargo.

It would complement the Empire Builder, La Crosse’s only other passenger route.

“So that’s going to give people that second option every day,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s president and chief executive officer. “And also a good, reliable option.”

“We think the on-time is going to be much, much better,” said Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson.

The federal government is investing nearly $32 million in grant money for this project, on top of commitments that Amtrak and the states are making.

The TCMC route would run along existing tracks, Thompson said.

Improvements planned for the tracks will bump up speeds for freight trains, he said.

“The investment’s going to pay back many, many times,” Thompson said.

This is a project that has been years in the making.

Although the route is on track to start in 2024, Gardner said he hopes that timeline can be pushed up.

“We are anxious to make it happen,” Gardner said. “We’re just getting the logistics ready. Now, that we’ve got the dollars here, it’s just putting those pieces together to make it happen.”

Finding the pieces to get this route moving on the right track.

Besides time, Thompson says the route also will save passengers money they won’t have to spend on gas.

Officials say the route will include daily stops at several area locations, including La Crosse, Winona and Tomah.

The route is expected to carry more than 124,000 passengers during its first year of service.

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