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Wisconsin-Minnesota passenger rail project getting $31.8 million federal grant
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Wisconsin-Minnesota passenger rail project getting $31.8 million federal grant

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Amtrak

Passengers board the Amtrak train at the La Crosse depot in August 2017.

A joint Wisconsin-Minnesota passenger rail project was picked to receive a $31.8 million federal grant, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration announced the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) passenger rail project was awarded a Consolidated Railroad Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) competitive grant for final design and construction of necessary railroad improvements.

The project, for which planning started in 2012, will add an extra daily roundtrip between the Twin Cities, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Chicago and points in between along Amtrak’s Empire Builder route. The TCMC rail service will be an extension of the existing Amtrak Hiawatha round trips.

State Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson said the expanded service provides a better connection among economic hubs in the Midwest and the Twin Cities, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Chicago.

“Just as important is the enhanced service for residents in the many rural communities,” Thompson said. “They will have increased travel options with rural better reliability and on-time performance.”

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Transportation, said the project will help Minnesota “create new jobs and generate economic growth” in the community as well as improve access to higher education in the area.

The grant is the last piece of federal support needed to carry out the rail service, WisDOT said. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Amtrak need to provide $21.2 million in matching funds in order to accept the award.

The TCMC rail service is expected to begin in 2024.

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