Quarter 3 2023 Newsletter

August 24, 2023

In this issue:

  • Many developments for passenger rail!
  • 2nd Twin Cities to Chicago Train Update
  • St. Paul to Fargo corridor passenger rail study
  • All Aboard Minnesota to celebrate 10 years as a 501 (C) (3)

1. Federal Railroad Administration Long Distance Study and Corridor ID Program:

The FRA held its second stakeholder meeting in July 2023 for a progress report on the long-distance passenger rail study. As part of that study, the FRA is encouraging all stakeholders (All Aboard Minnesota is a non-profit stakeholder representing Amtrak passengers) to reach out to their audiences to provide input to the study. We sent out an email to our members and friends in early August asking them to provide input directly to the FRA. Many of you reported back that you did just that! Thank you!

That email along with the FRA study progress report and materials is posted on the All Aboard Minnesota website in the news section. The third stakeholder meeting will be in January of 2024, where the FRA will reveal what routes will be included in the report to Congress, due in the summer of 2024. We will definitely keep you posted on these developments.

In October 2023, the FRA will reveal the first round of new and expanded state passenger rail corridors it has selected around the country. The FRA will provide $500,000 for each corridor it selects and will work with state DOT's to develop out these corridors. It is our understanding that MnDOT selected the Northern Lights Express - Twin Cities to Duluth corridor in its initial application to update the final design and engineering study.

The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission will hold its annual meeting in late Sept. in which eight Mid-west state DOT's will report on their passenger rail corridor initiatives. As we did last year, AAMN members will attend, and we will report on what we learn.

Between the FRA long distance study, the Corridor ID program, and the new trains for Minnesota such as the 2nd train to Chicago and the Northern Lights Express service between the Twin Cities and Duluth, there are a lot of developments now and in the future to be watching for. We will certainly keep you posted.

2. 2nd Twin Cities to Chicago train update:

Talk has surfaced that the 2nd Twin Cities to Chicago train could begin service as early as next month, but All Aboard Minnesota received information recently that the operating agreements between the states have not yet been signed. We also learned that the 2nd train will be an extension of a Hiawatha train (between Chicago and Milwaukee) and will be comprised of legacy Horizon equipment. The schedule will be close to what we have previously published, with an eastbound departure from St. Paul at around 11:30am, and a westbound departure from Chicago of approximately 10:30am. Running times will be around seven- and one-half hours. Of course, anything can change and once we know for sure when service begins, we will send out an alert, along with postings on Facebook and our site. Stay Tuned!!

Here is the 2nd train schedule as we believe right now

3. St. Paul to Fargo/Moorhead passenger rail corridor study update:

In a recent meeting with MnDOT, All Aboard Minnesota learned that the study will be in two phases:

A. The first study will be an analysis of the Northstar Commuter Rail service, being commissioned now and scheduled to be presented to the Minnesota legislature in February 2024.

B. The second phase of the study will be an analysis of the entire St. Paul to Fargo corridor, and as we understand it a recommendation how to serve this corridor. The study will be commissioned in early 2024 and will be presented to the Minnesota legislature in early 2025. All Aboard Minnesota has long advocated for daytime passenger service in this corridor, currently served by the Empire Builder, and strongly believes the corridor could support more frequencies. This could be impacted by the FRA long distance study if the report recommends restoration of the North Coast Hiawatha, which as of right now, seems fairly likely. ​​​

4. Save the date and Let's Celebrate!

2023 officially marks 10 years for All Aboard Minnesota as a 501 (C) (3) organization! This event is planned for Saturday November 18 during the lunch hour, and we will provide a light lunch and an exciting program! It will be free for all of our members and friends. We will send out an invite to all of our members and friends in late September containing all the details.

We could not have achieved this milestone without your generosity, activism and support. We are very grateful to all of our members, friends, colleagues, and partner organizations. We hope to see you there, stay tuned!