Potential Eau Claire-Tomah Amtrak shuttle takes another step towards reality
The potential for tying the Chippewa Valley into the national Amtrak system took another step towards implementation recently when the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) was awarded a $12.6 million federal grant towards the operation of a second daily train on the current Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) route.
WisDOT and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) have been working together on the plan, which would help meet demonstrated demand for another train on the route, which runs through Columbus, Tomah, La Crosse and Winona, and which would provide better schedule reliability than the long-distance Empire Builder.
Shuttle connections to reach more cities
As part of the plan, the states are also working on shuttle connections to nearby major cities that are not directly on the line, including Madison, Eau Claire, and Rochester. Connections like these have been successful in other states like
station in Tomah. The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition, which is working to establish a multi-frequency Twin Cities-Eau Claire corridor as a public-private partnership on the tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad, has endorsed the proposal as a complementary step to provide residents of the region access to the national passenger train network.
In a resolution it drafted earlier this year the Coalition noted that many people already drive to the station at Tomah: "This would open up more travel opportunities for area residents and visitors to connect to/from Milwaukee and Chicago via Tomah, and would especially provide improved mobility for students, seniors and others who cannot or do not want to drive 80 miles to access the service."
Eau Claire Chamber, City Council, County Board support
In a letter to WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson, the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce noted: "Transportation is a critical component for economic prosperity. The Chamber has long advocated for establishing passenger rail service to our region as an important component for economic competitiveness and talent attraction," and that the shuttle "would enhance the connectivity of our community and be complementary to efforts to obtain future direct train service for Eau Claire."
The Eau Claire City Council passed a supporting resolution on February 25, and the Eau Claire County Board on May 5. See the links below.
Next steps for the project
As WisDOT, MnDOT, and Amtrak work on schedules and operating scenarios for the new train project, the primary next step is to apply for an FRA capital grant for the start-up capital costs, such as track improvements and rolling stock. The program, Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) will match federal funds with commitments from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Amtrak.
For more information about the Chamber's support of this project, contact Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
’Second Empire Builder’ project wins a $12.6 million Restoration & Enhancement grant (MIPRC)
Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Intercity Passenger Rail Service (Minnesota Department of Transportation)
Additional passenger train from St. Paul to Chicago closer to becoming a reality (La Crosse Tribune)
Eau Claire-Tomah Shuttle Fact Sheet (West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition)
Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce Letter in support of CRISI grant (Eau Claire Chamber)
Eau Claire City Council Resolution (City of Eau Claire)
Eau Claire County Board Resolution (Eau Claire County)
West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition Letter and Resolution (West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition)
Posted by Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.