Twin Cities - Des Moines - Kansas City - possibly extending to Texas

Population Served to Kansas City


Without Twin Cities



We believe that population and Amtrak connections give the Twin Cities-Kansas City route the second highest ridership potential after Chicago. This route has potential for three trains a day to Des Moines with one to two trains extending to Kansas City at 79 mph. In the future one train could be extended to form a Twin Cities-Kansas City-Dallas-Houston train. There is already substantial travel along parallel I35 to Des Moines and Kansas City. The rail route is in excellent condition and has moderate freight train traffic.

The route has the opportunity to connect Twin Cities travelers with Amtrak trains going to: Omaha, Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. This could also provide a through Twin Cities to Texas route serving the same travelers as I35. It would offer connections at Kansas City and San Antonio to the popular Minnesota destination of Phoenix.

This route would serve the Minnesota communities of Northfield, Faribault, Owatonna, and Albert Lea, plus Iowa destinations including Mason City, Nevada (Ames), and Des Moines and connect with the California Zephyr at Chariton and the Southwest Chief at Kansas City. No longer would Minnesota riders have to go east to Chicago and lay over 24 hours to connect with these west bound trains! MnDOT has moved this route to Tier 1 study status, placing it behind Duluth and Chicago. This route has the second highest ridership potential after Chicago.

In 2016 we did a field study of this line. We found substantial Union Pacific track upgrades in Iowa and Missouri done in 2015. We also found that about half the stations and platforms on the line are still intact, but some may not be usable for future service. For these, we identified alternative station locations.

Early in 2022, AAMN Board Director Bob Moen published a comprehensive study on this route. Here are some of the main points from that paper:

  • With a Projected ridership of over 190,000 per year this corridor has the greatest potential ridership of any Midwestern passenger rail route
    • Serves major population centers such as Des Moines, IA, population 709,000
      • Additionally it would serve 90,000 Minnesotans in Northfield, Owatonna, Faribault, and Albert Lea
      • And give access to 100,000 others in Mason City and Ames, IA to the Twin Cities
    • The Kansas City, MO terminus, population of over 2,000,000, quadruples ridership potential. It Connects Minnesotans to Amtrak trains serving St Louis, Denver, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Los Angeles

  • Des Moines and Kansas City are ideal distances (259 and 478 miles from St. Paul respectively) for conversion of auto users to rail passenger service. Auto trips will be reduced, saving on highway maintenance costs and greenhouse gasses. Trains are more than 30% more energy efficient than cars

  • Schedule and service: AAMN proposes an eight to nine hour schedule between end point cities, including all intermediate stops such as Northfield, Albert Lea, and more. The train would depart St Paul or Kansas City late morning, arriving mid-evening and feature coaches, business class, cafe and baggage service. Train coach seats typically offer more room and comfort than bus or airline seat. Click here to view our proposed schedule (along with historical reference to railroad passenger service that ran in the 1960's)
  • Capacity for rail passenger service: Rail line owner Union Pacific Railroad operates a modest amount of freight trains on the route today. AAMN estimates UP has spent over $300 million on the line recently and could host passenger trains at 79 mph with signal and other upgrades

  • Infrastructure spending to enable passenger train service on freight railroads benefits both freight and passenger service, reducing bottlenecks, speeding goods and services, and enhances grade crossing safety

  • Rail passenger service offers a needed mobility alternative. The main option to travel to and from the Twin Cities to Des Moines, Kansas City and other intermediate points is by car. Bus service is very limited. There is limited non-stop airline service, which is often expensive

*Ridership methodology based upon historical data for the route and comparing boarding statistics for like Midwestern communities, and other Amtrak ridership statistics. All information in this overview is sourced from the “Twin Cities-Des Moines-Kansas City Route Study” written by AAMN Board Director Robert Moen