Member Meeting 4/29/17

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Spring 2017 Annual Membership Meeting – You are Invited!  

www.allaboardmn.org

The spring “all-member” meeting of All Aboard Minnesota will be held
on Saturday, April 29, and… YOU are invited!

We are fighting to save passenger rail in Minnesota! We need you!   See below for details.

The meeting will be held at Christ the King Lutheran Church, located on 8600 Freemont Ave, South in Bloomington,  MN.

  • Doors will open at 9:00am 
  • The meeting will begin at 9:30am
  • Will conclude at 12:00noon.  Go in the main entrance on the south side of the church, walk straight back and down the hall on the left to the lounge.  There will be signs to direct you.

Refreshments will be provided in the morning, and at 12:00noon, we will provide a light lunch.  For directions, please click on this
link:  http://www.ctkb.org/contact-us/

We have an exciting agenda planned including:  

  • The All Aboard Minnesota board has been busy on the state and federal level legislative front-we will give an update on what we know, what we have done, and what actions we plan to take 
    • ​We will share an interesting survey results about passenger rail in Minnesota  
  • Working committees – we need your help – All Aboard Minnesota is forming member committees, learn how you can get involved according to your interest!  

We will break into the following committees to organize and move our cause forward
(
there will be opportunities to participate in numerous areas for those who might be interested).  A board member will describe what we need for each committee and ask for your input as we form these:     

  • Membership  
  • Legislative
  • Communications
  • Outreach

Next Steps, Questions and Answers

Members are asked to RSVP in advance Reservations will be accepted up until
Thursday April 27.  Please rsvp your reservation to AAMN at:

Email;  allaboardminnesota@gmail.com;

Or please call 612-781-2894 and leave a message 

We are excited to see you.  Together, we can save passenger rail for Minnesota and the upper midwest!

Contact Your Legislator About Funding Cuts

Dear Members and Friends,

It has been a busy week in Washington DC and in the Minnesota Legislature.  In case you missed it, President Trump’s budget proposal eliminates all funding for AMTRAK long distance trains, and cost sharing for new State supported intercity trains.  And, despite the urging of our members and others around the State, the Legislature did not include funding for new State supported interstate passenger trains in the Omnibus Budget.  That’s the bad news…

The worst case scenario? If these budgets are approved without modification, Minnesota will lose all intercity passenger trains! The Empire Builder will cease to exist, and development of new State supported trains will be stopped.

The good news is that it is not too late to act…here’s how:

Contact your US Senators and your district congressperson and urge them to reinstate funding for AMTRAK long distance trains and State funded intercity trains in the Congressional Transportation budget.  Find their contact information here

Contact Governor Dayton and urge him to maintain funding for the MNdot Passenger Rail Office.  This office coordinates the planning for new intercity trains like the Northern Lights express to Duluth, and Twin Cities Hiawatha to Chicago.  Also, request that he provides additional funds for development of intercity trains in his budget proposal. Telephone his office at: 651-201-3400.

A lesson learned from our previous legislative contacts:  Many of the legislators confuse intercity rail with urban Transit…LRT etc.  Make clear that you are supporting AMTRAK, Empire Builder and intercity trains.

If the Empire Builder is discontinued, the Twin Cities and the following Greater Minnesota cities will lose their intercity train service: La Crescent (La Crosse), Winona, Redwing, St Cloud, Staples/Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Moorhead (Fargo) and East Grand Forks (Grand Forks).  The discontinuation of the Northern Lights Express project would also affect Cambridge, Hinkley, and Duluth/Superior.

WE CAN’T LET CITIES LIKE THESE LOSE THEIR TRAIN SERVICE.  PLEASE CALL TODAY!

If you know people from these locations or elsewhere who would be willing to help, please forward this note to them.

AAMN Response to Empire Builder Article by Star Tribune

To our members;

On Dec 24 the StarTribune ran an article on the Empire Builder.  We felt it was good coverage, but felt it needed some further context. Our response to the article is below.   Please forward this response to your elected officials or otherwise get the word out about our cause.  Thank you and Happy New Year!

All Aboard Minnesota Board.

 

 

Dear Mr. Peterson:

 

Your article about Amtrak’s Empire Builder correctly stated that ridership has definitely increased, and the benefits it provides over driving and flying.  Your article also mentions more frequencies for Amtrak service.  All Aboard Minnesota, a non-profit group whose mission is to advocate and educate for more rail passenger service for the state of Minnesota, is strongly in support of a second train frequency from the Twin Cities to Chicago.  Studies have shown that more than 200 riders would use the service each way, every day, and this service would attract new ridership.1

 

We are also strongly in support of a stop for passenger trains in Minneapolis, in addition to St. Paul Union Depot (SPUD).  While we applaud the renovation of SPUD, we believe a stop is necessary in Minneapolis/Hennepin County as the almost two thirds of the Twin Cities population reside there, and SPUD may be geographically undesirable for many.  While we believe it could be higher, MnDot estimates that perhaps an additional 20,000 riders would use current Amtrak service if a Minneapolis stop were made available.2   

 

Your article mentions “dips” in Amtrak’s ridership.  Actually, Amtrak’s overall ridership has actually increased now for at least five consecutive years.  Amtrak carried a record 31.3 million passengers in 2016, 400,000 more than last year, and the sixth consecutive year Amtrak has carried more than 30 million customers.3

 

Amtrak’s long distance services currently comprise 15 different routes, and for Amtrak’s Fiscal Year 2016 seven of these routes have seen increases in ridership over 2015, the Empire Builder being one of them.  As a group, the long-distance trains carried 3.2 percent more passengers in 2016 versus 2015.4 This is in spite of, as you pointed out, record low gas prices and additional competition.

 

The Minnesota legislature needs to adequately fund more rail passenger service as part of a balanced transportation network.  This would connect the Twin Cities to rural parts of the state, and would provide true options for the elderly, college students and others who often cannot drive or fly.

 

We can no longer solely rely on highway funding to meet all of our transportation needs. Rail passenger services requires less cost to add service versus new highways or airways, is environmentally friendlier, and offers comfort and safety that is superior compared to driving and buses.  For more information about All Aboard Minnesota, please visit our website:  www.allaboardmn.org;  Thank you for your article and consideration of this response.

 

Best Regards,

 

Brian W. Nelson-President

All Aboard Minnesota

 

Sources:

  1. MnDot State Rail Passenger office study
  2. MnDot
  3. Amtrak
  4. Amtrak

Fall Membership Meeting: Highlights and Video

All Aboard Minnesota’s 2016 fall membership meeting was held on Saturday, November 12… five days after the national election.  This was our third such meeting, and we had record turnout and a packed agenda!

View Meeting:

Here is a summary of the meeting:

  • Board members introduced themselves and gave a brief recap of 2016 activities and achievements.
  • Bob Moen gave a brief powerpoint presentation showing what he found on a recent scouting trip down UP’s “Spine Line” toward Kansas City.  This route has been identified in the State Rail Plan as a “Tier Two” choice for eventual intercity passenger service.  Bob reported on improved track conditions, existing station/platform infrastructure, and overall desirability of the route, which would serve important communities such as Northfield, Faribault, Owatonna, Mason City, and Des Moines.
  • House Representative Alice Hausman (Chair of the Transportation Policy and Finance committee) spoke on the outlook for progress given the new makeup of the House and Senate and how we can impact outcomes.
  • MnDOT Office of Passenger Rail – Dan Krom and Frank Loetterle—provided an in-depth look at their ongoing efforts to bring new service from the Twin Cities to Chicago and Duluth (NLX), and their legislative “ask” for funding and planning for 2017.
  • NARP Vice-Chair John DeLora, who launched and headed the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers some 37 years ago!  John had many good suggestions on how to successfully grow a nonprofit organization; and to accomplish our grass-roots communication and education objectives.
  • Finally, the Board recognized several members for their important contributions in 2016.  Lunch and socialization rounded out this successful get- together.  Thanks to all who attended!

Fall 2016 Annual Membership Meeting – You are Invited!

Fall 2016 Annual Membership Meeting – You are Invited!  

The fall “all-member” meeting of All Aboard Minnesota will be held
on Saturday, November 12, and… YOU are invited!

We are extremely pleased to announce three very informative speakers for our meeting!  See below for details.

The meeting will be held at Christ the King Lutheran Church, located on 8600 Freemont Ave, South in Bloomington,  MN.  Doors will be open at 9:00am- the meeting will begin at 9:30am will conclude at 12:00noon.  Go in the main entrance on the south side of the church, walk straight back and down the hall on the left to the lounge.  There will be signs to direct you.

Refreshments will be provided in the morning, and at 12:00noon, we will provide a light lunch.  For directions, please click on this
link:  http://www.ctkb.org/contact-us/

This meeting is free and open to all members! 

We have an exciting agenda planned including:  

What has All Aboard Minnesota been doing?  What are the plans going forward?
Speaker Alice Hausman – Minnesota State Rep will give her thoughts on passenger rail for the state of Minnesota and the upcoming legislative session for transportation
Speaker John Delora – Vice Chair – National Association of Railroad Passengers -and Founder-Michigan Association of Railroad passengers-  advocacy lessons learned in Michigan
Speaker Dan Krom – Director – MnDot Passenger Rail Office – will give an update on key Minnesota state passenger rail initiatives
Recognizing our members – for all the great work you have done!
Member input – we want to hear your ideas!
Questions and Answers

Members are asked to RSVP in advance Reservations will be accepted up until
Monday November 7.  Please rsvp your reservation to AAMN at:

Email;  allaboardminnesota@gmail.com;

Or please call 612-781-2894 and leave a message 

This will be a great opportunity for all of us to meet, greet, and get to know each
other.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Legislators need to fund transportation – giving Minnesotans true transportation mobility

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Brian W. Nelson
612-781-2894 (Telephone)
allaboardminnesota@gmail.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Legislators need to fund transportation – giving Minnesotans true transportation mobility

St. Paul, Minnesota (September 22, 2016 ) – All Aboard Minnesota was disappointed that a special session was not held to adequately fund transportation for Minnesotans.  As state legislators reconvene in 2017 for a new session, we urge legislators to deliver a 2017 Transportation package that includes the $21 million needed by MnDot to fund rail passenger development on existing rail corridors designated in the State Rail Plan.  The $21 million as proposed by bills HF 2791/SF2257 provides funding to expand intercity rail passenger service (Amtrak) on four key corridors within and connecting the state of Minnesota to the upper Midwest.  These four main corridors are:

  1. Additional frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago
  2. Twin Cities to Duluth
  3. Twin Cities to Des Moines and Kansas City
  4. Additional frequency between the Twin Cities and Fargo/Moorhead

Passenger rail provides convenience and true mobility options to small communities in rural areas where airline and bus service is expensive, or lacking.  It also provides travel options for college students, the disabled, and the elderly that have difficulty driving or flying. It provides all weather travel safety and reliability that other modes of transportation can’t match.

More passenger rail frequencies between the Twin Cities-Chicago, Duluth and Kansas City make sense.  For the additional frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago alone, Amtrak and MnDOT recently released studies that found this service would be very popular.  The preliminary study estimates that over 200 additional riders would be drawn to the service each way daily, giving people a lower-cost alternative to flying.

Additional frequencies and new service would create substantial new economic growth and increased tourism all along these four routes that could offset modest annual operating costs.  It is estimated that for every dollar invested in passenger rail service, local communities benefit by up to four dollars that is brought by tourism, and additional services purchased.

“Amtrak has realized record passenger growth during the past three years, hauling over 30 million passengers each year.  People from all generations all over the country are voting with their ridership that they want more passenger train service,” said Brian Nelson, President of All Aboard Minnesota, a citizen advocacy group promoting increased train travel options in Minnesota.

“The state of Minnesota is underserved by Amtrak,” he said, “with one single train, that operates through the state in the middle of the night west of the Twin Cities and only provides one daytime frequency to Chicago.  Other states have invested in more and better train service: Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, North Carolina, California and others. They have all seen tremendous ridership growth.  Illinois doubled its train frequency and saw the trains fill up in a matter of weeks! Illinois now fills 5 trains a day from Chicago-St. Louis. It only makes sense that fast, comfortable, modern trains should be a part of a truly balanced transportation system that provides Minnesotans with mobility options,” he added.

Additionally, there is the issue of energy efficiency and environmental impact.  Trains are 30% more energy-efficient than cars, 20% more efficient than airplanes, resulting in less air pollution, less highway congestion, and less reliance on expensive regional air services.

Nelson also urged Minnesotans who would benefit from additional rail passenger services to get in touch with their state and federal legislators.  “Legislators need to know their constituents are in support of expanded, better, and more convenient train service,” Nelson said, “and the upcoming session in 2017 is a good time to do it… while legislators are considering transportation issues.  From the evidence we see, Minnesota could add significant new train services for one tenth of the cost of new roads in many cases… not only would it benefit the entire state economy, it would also benefit citizens from all over the state!”

About All Aboard Minnesota.
All Aboard Minnesota is a 501 ( c ) 3 non-profit advocacy and education organization focused on the expansion and development of more long distance rail passenger service as part of a balanced transportation system.  We are dedicated to the development of fast, comfortable, frequent, intercity passenger train services within and connecting Minnesota to the upper Midwest.
For more information, All Aboard Minnesota can be reached at (612) 781-2894 or on the Web at: www.allaboardmn.org.

2016 All Aboard Minnesota. All other trademarks are the sole property of their respective owners.

 

Spring 2016 Membership Meeting – Saturday, May 21

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Spring 2016 Membership Meeting – You are Invited!  

www.allaboardmn.org

Spring membership meeting of All Aboard Minnesota will be held
on Saturday, May 21, and… YOU are invited!

The meeting will be held at Christ the King Lutheran Church, located on 8600 Freemont Ave, South in Bloomington,  MN.  Doors will be open at 10:00am.  The meeting will begin at 10:30 am and will conclude at 12:00noon.  Light refreshments will be provided in the morning.

For directions, please click on this
link:  http://www.ctkb.org/contact-us/

This meeting is free and open to all members! 

We have an exciting agenda planned: 

Update on our meetings and our learnings from the 2016 MN legislative session
What is happening with rail passenger legislation
Update on the MnDot State Rail Passenger office
Meetings we’ve had around the region with Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers, Prorail, and others
How you can help our cause

There is no need to RSVP, but if you have questions in the meantime please contact us at:
allaboardminnesota@gmail.com;

We look forward to seeing you there!

Stop by Train Days April 30-May 1 2016

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Stop by Train Days April 30-May 1  2016

www.allaboardmn.org

All Aboard Minnesota will be exhibiting at St. Paul Union Depot Train Days!  All members are invited to stop in and visit with AAMN Board members at this special two-day event being held on Saturday and Sunday, April 30-May 1.  Timing of the event is 10:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday April 30, and 11:00am to 3:00pm Sunday May 1.

The Depot is putting together an extravaganza celebrating train travel…an event that will feature an Amtrak exhibition train!  Also on display down on the depot tracks will be Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 #261, a Soo Line FP7, and other historic equipment.  Up in the main room, there will be art, speakers, vendors, operating model layouts, and of course… groups like us that will all be there in support of more and better train service in Minnesota.  Admission is free.

For more information, visit:  http://www.uniondepot.org/traindays/

Spread the word and encourage your friends and family to come.  We hope to see you there!

BNSF Update

We have created this page to give you an idea of the massive construction effort BNSF is taking in North Dakota to expand capacity along the Hi Line.  The following trip report will give you indication of what is happening.  This construction will ultimately alleviate, we hope, the persistent timekeeping problems with the Empire Builder and provide better freight service.

Spring 2015 Construction Update:

The BNSF 2015 construction season has begun. 6 billion dollars are being spent to upgrade and add capacity all over the railroad.  Several of these projects will benefit the Empire Builder.  Within Minneapolis itself the BNSF is adding a second main from Minneapolis junction (where the line to Willmar connects) through Union Yard to St Anthony tower (where Amtrak turns off the BNSF and onto the Minnesota Commercial).  This will help keep Amtrak and certain freight trains from interfering with work at the BNSF Midway Hub Center.

Here is a photo looking East from the 15th street pedestrian bridge in Minneapolis.  You can see where the sub grade has been exposed in order to lay the new track.

https://flic.kr/p/s7GGT9 

And a view looking west from the same foot bridge.

https://flic.kr/p/spfBAM

All Aboard Minnesota goes to North Dakota to see why Amtrak is running so late

In late September 2014 your President, Brian Nelson and Treasurer, Bob Moen, went to North Dakota to see firsthand why the Empire Builder is running so late and what can be done about it. What we found was an army of men, bulldozers and equipment stretching across the state. BNSF started rebuilding and re-signaling the line from Fargo-Grand Forks-Minot last year. They expect to have that work done by freeze-up on December 1st. What the Empire Builder will have is a new railroad capable of 79 mph with modern signals, CTC sidings and crossovers. The line across the lake at Churches Ferry has been raised with a new bridge. This line will serve as the second mainline between Fargo and Minot complementing the traditional mainline via New Rockford. That line will also see upgrades and more sidings next year. BNSF is implementing directional running where all the trains on one route will run west and all on the other route will run east. Only Amtrak and a few freight trains will run in both directions on the Grand Forks line once the work is done.

The main work this year was west of Minot where BNSF has been building a second track to Williston on what had historically been a single track railroad most of the way.  They have been bulldozing hills, filling in valleys and pushing dirt out into small lakes to build a second track. There are many stretches of the 120-mile route where track is in and operational for 6-7 mile sections. We found a significant portion has been fully graded, shaped and tamped into a roadbed awaiting ties, ballast and rail. It appears that BNSF crews have been trying to grade and shape as many miles as possible before freeze-up and are planning to lay rail, ties and ballast in the winter months when it is impossible to grade dirt. If this winter is severe, this work may have to wait for next spring. As of late September crews were filling in a large valley east of Epping and only a mile or so from the existing double track into Williston, ND. They expect to have 55 miles of double track completed by the end of the year on this segment. This is the biggest amount railroad construction in North Dakota since James J. Hill built the Great Northern in the 1890’s and the Milwaukee Road built across the southern section of the state in 1907.

We came away with the clear picture that BNSF is doing everything physically possible to get the congested railroad in North Dakota unclogged as quickly as possible. The problem the Empire Builder is facing, is the same one all shippers of grain and oil are facing. There is simply too much traffic and too many trains for the railroad to handle. The line is handling almost twice as much traffic as it handled ten years ago and probably 8 times as much as in the Great Northern days of the 1960’s when more passenger trains operated over the route. The fact is that the “pipe” is only so big and only so much can be pushed through it. No amount screaming, investigations or pressure from government entities is going to change that physical fact. Only adding another pipe (track) can fix the problem, which is exactly what BNSF is doing as fast as possible. We are as frustrated as anyone at the terrible on time performance of the Empire Builder, but we do not see any way this can be changed until these improvements are implemented. The day we were there, we observed over a dozen freight trains between Minot and Williston trying to pass each other going opposite directions on single track. Then we watched BNSF move all the freight trains out of the way for Amtrak. As soon as the Empire Builder had passed, the freight train traffic jam resumed.

Next year BNSF plans to finish North Dakota and concentrate on the line from Fargo to Minneapolis to add capacity there. We will keep up the pressure in Washington and St. Paul, but until the track work is done, we do not expect the Empire Builder to return to its traditional on time performance.

Here are some new pictures of the construction:

Here is a slightly tardy westbound Empire Builder at Berthold ND just some 23 miles west of Minot. Here you can see what looks like a road next to the tracks. That is actually the sub grade for the new second main. Note also the new welded rail sticks on the ballast next to the active mainline. While Berthold already had a siding it was left unaltered to become just a feeder track for the oil loading facility there. A completely new second main track is being laid rather than simply extending the Berthold siding to the next location.

In another view at Ross which is 61 miles west of Minot we see a BNSF local in the distance stepping through the construction zone.  Note the new signals in the distance which will control a crossover point there. A crossover is just a group of switches that allow a train to move from one main track to the other. Note also the wide right of way and fresh rail laying on the new sub grade waiting for the track laying machine. As of February 2015 the second main is in place and active up to that ‘future’ crossover point in the distance.

Here are some other pictures:

BNSF Cons Sept 14BNSF Cons Sept 14 MG_2507 (1)

BNSF Cons Sept 14 IMG_2508BNSF Cons Sept 14 3 IMG_2499 (1)BNSF Cons Sept 14 2