Feds Approve $32 Million for Amtrak Expansion in Wisconsin, State to Match $6.2 Million

(The Center Square) – The federal government is willing to cover most of the cost to expand Amtrak service from Chicago to Minnesota, but Wisconsin has to pay its share.

The state’s Department of Transportation on Wednesday announced that the Federal Railroad Administration authorized $31.8 million to add an additional train along Amtrak’s Amtrak Empire Builder route. That route’s Wisconsin stops include Milwaukee, Columbus, Portage, the Wisconsin Dells, Tomah, and La Crosse.

“The expanded service provides a much-improved connection between the Midwest economic hubs of Minneapolis/St. Paul, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Chicago,” Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said. “Just as important is the enhanced service for residents in the many rural communities. They will have increased travel options, with better reliability and on-time performance.”

There is currently one train per day along the line. The expansion would double that to two.

But Wisconsin, and Minnesota, must provide millions of dollars of their own before anything can happen.

WISDot’s office of public affairs told The Center Square that Wisconsin’s match is $6.2 million.

“A state funding match has not been contributed or secured at this time,” the public affairs office said.

Minnesota’s match is $10 million. Amtrak must contribute $5 million on its own.

The $31.8 million grant is not the first federal grant for the expansion. Earlier this year, the FRA provided a $12.6 million grant to offset operating costs for the first three years of service.

Planners started work on the expansion in 2012. The hope is to have the extra train up and running by 2024.

Benjamin Yount, The Center Square

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