Twin Cities - St. Cloud - Fargo Daytime Corridor Service
Without Twin Cities
May 2023 legislation update: The Minnesota House and Senate Transportation Conference Committee approved legislation sponsored by Rep Erin Koegel to study the St. Paul to Fargo passenger rail corridor, included now in the Transportation bill. The legislation includes $4M for a comprehensive study which could determine an outcome for Northstar Commuter rail service, and or expanded long distance passenger rail from St. Paul to Fargo. All Aboard Minnesota supports this study, and we are excited to see what the study recommends.
The second easiest and least costly route to implement in Minnesota is a second train from St. Paul/Minneapolis-Fargo/Moorhead on the current Amtrak route through St. Cloud. This could be a daytime train leaving Fargo/Moorhead in the early morning going east and leaving St. Paul in the evening headed west. The most cost effective way to operate this service would be as a continuation of the proposed second train between the Twin Cities and Chicago. To achieve the highest ridership and cost recovery, we believe the route should extend to Fargo/ Moorhead rather than just St. Cloud.
Currently Amtrak serves St. Cloud, Staples, and Detroit Lakes, but additional stops at Little Falls, Wadena, and a northern suburb like Fridley or Anoka for a Minneapolis oriented stop should be seriously evaluated. This route could eventually support three trains a day (morning, noon and late afternoon plus the current overnight Empire Builder service. One train could be extended to Grand Forks and Winnipeg in the future.
This corridor is part of the MnDOT State Rail Plan, and in the 2010 published plan it was included in Phase 1 routes ( those routes considered the most viable at that time ). MnDOT has since 2015 put this corridor now into what is called the "Emerging Corridor" section of the plan and is focusing on establishing the Twin Cities to Chicago second frequency. One of the reasons for scaling back the service were capacity issues of getting more passenger trains between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis, and it would also require negotiating with two more freight railroads to establish more rail passenger service in this corridor. While these are valid issues, the infrastructure exists, the route is used by Amtrak today, and per our statement above we believe this corridor would be heavily used as a daytime service. All Aboard Minnesota has modeled that around 100,000 additional riders annually would use this service. Also, since 2015, BNSF has invested significant amounts of infrastructure money to improve freight train capacity, so the costs may have come down to implement more passenger rail service than were modeled in the MnDOT State Rail Plan.
Here are some more economic and mobility benefits we believe this service would provide:
Generates economic growth
- For every dollar invested in passenger rail, three dollars are generated within the communities served
- The proposed 2nd Train frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago alone would generate economic returns eight to ten times for Minnesota’s spending on the service (total economic benefit of $25M, cost $2-3M, estimated)*
Passenger trains reduce highway congestion, costs, and are greener
- The 2nd train would take an estimated 148,000 riders out of cars, which:**
- Reduces highway trips by 25M car miles – Fargo, Twin Cities, Chicago
- Reduces $52M in highway maintenance costs
- Trains are three times more fuel efficient that cars, reducing green- house gases
Passenger trains offer greater mobility
- The 2nd Train will drive an additional twenty thousand trips each year, called induced demand, i.e. trips that otherwise would not be taken**
- Induced demand travel will inject $4.4M of new revenue into Minnesota’s economy each year through mainly new visitor spending**
- Trains connect urban to outstate communities, and offer options for those who can’t or prefer not to drive or fly, such as college students, families with children, elderly, etc.
- Amtrak service today between the Twin Cities and Fargo is less costly than flying
For more information or to contact us, visit: AllaboardMN.org
2nd Train is one example of how additional rail passenger service could benefit Minnesota’s economy and mobility. More service, like Twin Cities to Duluth, Des Moines, and Kansas City, could offer even more economic benefits.
* Source– Impacts from a Second Train to Minnesota – Rail Passengers Assoc. View this full paper on: AllAboardMN.org
**Source – Fargo Extension Study – Rail Passengers Assoc.