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Second Train From Chicago To Twin Cities Could Bring $25M To MN

February 28, 2019

$47 Million Economic Benefit Felt Across Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois - 90,000 People Could Shift From Car Travel to Passenger Rail

For Immediate Release (19-6)

Contact: Xenophon Strategies - (202) 289-4001

Washington, D.C. - A second Amtrak train between Chicago and Minneapolis/ St. Paul could bring $25 million annually for the state of Minnesota, according to the Rail Passengers Association. This represents an economic return of eight- to ten- times Minnesota’s annual net spending to support the potential new service, which is an estimated $2 to $3 million annually. In a review of an Amtrak feasibility study, Rail Passengers also found that the overall economic benefit for three states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois would be $47 million annually -- a return on investment of better than seven-to-one.

Rail Passengers issued a “Research Note” this week -- “Impacts From A Second Train To Minnesota” -- assessing the benefits of new service. Rail Passengers’ work is a follow-on to Amtrak’s 2015 study, “Feasibility Report on Proposed Amtrak Service Chicago - Milwaukee - LaCrosse- Twin Cities (St. Cloud).” Where Amtrak’s study was confined to assessing the feasibility of adding a second train in addition to current Empire Builder service, Rail Passengers took it a step further to assess the total economic benefits of running a second train. Rail Passengers conducted its assessment of Amtrak’s results using the IMPLAN economic-impact planning tool, which examines both direct and indirect economic effects at the county level.

“Amtrak’s study showed that new service was possible and feasible, but we wanted to take the next step to examine why the new service would provide a benefit,” said Rail Passengers President and CEO Jim Mathews. “What we found was a strong case for implementing a second daily train between Chicago and the Twin Cities, which would carry about 155,000 passengers at a cost ratio comparable to other short-distance corridors while generating strong returns on investment. It would also take many thousands of cars off the region’s busy highways.”

The Rail Passengers Association found that the additional service’s annual operating cost -- which Amtrak estimated at $13.4 million -- is easily offset by the economic benefits generated by the service. Ridership revenue (i.e., fares paid and some associated spending on-board) can be expected to contribute about $6.8 million each year to offsetting the annual operational cost.

“With the additional service, we could see a significant shift in people leaving their cars behind and jumping on the train for a hassle-free, easy commute,” said Mathews. “We expect that 60 percent, or 90,000 people who would ride the additional Amtrak service would come from automotive trips -- helping the state, as well as Illinois and Wisconsin, see dramatic decreases in auto accidents and emissions.”

Impacts From A Second Train To Minnesota also found other benefits for the state:

  • $2.9 million will be injected into the state’s economy through induced train travel;

  • $1.3 million could be saved due to a decrease in traffic accidents; and

  • $20.8 million could be saved in highway maintenance and congestion costs.

On a regional level for Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, the report found:

  • $47 million would be generated from the operation and maintenance costs of the train;

  • $1.8 million saved in traffic accidents avoided; and

  • $120,000 would be saved through pollution abatement.

The full assessment findings are available online at the Rail Passengers Association website: www.railpassengers.org.

About the Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association, previously known as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, is the oldest and largest national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.