Amtrak adding second daily train across Wisconsin - TAI News
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Amtrak train. (jmv / Flickr)

There will soon be a second option for traveling across southern Wisconsin by train: Amtrak announced on May 1 that it would be adding a second train connecting Wisconsin with Illinois and Minnesota, in addition to the long-distance Empire Builder that travels the same route as part of its service between Chicago and Seattle.

Starting May 21, the Borealis train will make daily trips from Chicago to the Twin Cities, with eight stops throughout Wisconsin bookended by La Crosse and Milwaukee. The new service is part of a partnership between the three states and Amtrak, and officials say it will help the communities along the route economically.

“This route includes eight stations in Wisconsin, and doubling the frequency of the service will better connect the many businesses, universities and tourist attractions along this corridor,” Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson said in a statement. “This expansion is thanks to the work WisDOT was able to do together with Minnesota, Illinois and Amtrak, as well as the opportunities provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff said he was excited about the additional service, which will include two stops in his district. “It provides greater opportunities to residents who want to travel, tourists who want to visit, and local businesses in our community,” he said.

The new service doubles the rail options for travelers using this route and offers a slightly faster trip during daylight through scenic parts of the state.

“Roll past gentle hills and picturesque farmland between the bustling hubs of Chicago and the Twin Cities. Scale Sugar Loaf in Winona and watch the Mighty Mississippi roll by. Dive into family fun in the Dells and sample culture, curds and a tall cold one in Milwaukee,” Amtrak says in its description of where the Borealis will take passengers.

One-way tickets from St. Paul to Chicago start at $41 for coach seats. Business class seats are also available, as is access to a cafe car, which will include regional food and beverage options. The journey from one end of the line to the other will take about 7 1/2 hours, and trains will depart from the Twin Cities at 11:50 a.m. and from Chicago at 11:05 a.m.

The Borealis will make stops in Sturtevant, the Milwaukee International Mitchell Airport, Milwaukee, Columbus, Portage, the Wisconsin Dells, Tomah and La Crosse.

The additional service comes as appetites in Wisconsin grow for more transportation options, and specifically passenger rail. After the new Borealis service was announced, travelers took to social media to share their excitement, some already booking their trip for opening day.

And more is likely coming: Last December, the White House and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced that Wisconsin would receive $2.5 million in federal grants from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support adding five possible new passenger routes around the state, which would connect some cities currently without passenger rail, such as Madison and Green Bay.

“Through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification Program we are working with grantees on dozens of other possible new Amtrak routes,” Amtrak President Roger Harris said in a statement. “Thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, interest from state transportation departments and others for new or expanded Amtrak service across the country is at an all-time high.”

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