Now is the time for rail infrastructure and a second train


(6/23/2021)

From: Paul Schollmeier

Winona

 

Governor Walz, Speaker Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Gazelka, please support the $10-million funding request for the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) Second Train. As we exit the economic crush of the pandemic it is as important as ever to support our rural economies with infrastructure that helps secure future growth of  our manufacturing, agricultural, and tourism sectors.

The TCMC Second Train is a proposed second round-trip passenger train from the Twin Cities to Chicago, complementing existing Amtrak Empire Builder service. By supporting the $10-million bonding request, the state of Minnesota gains nearly $40 million in rail infrastructure improvements. These improvements will allow for more efficient freight movement within the system and save shippers time and money while at the same time giving businesses, tourists, and commuters options that haven’t existed since the very early 70s. The TCMC Second Train will benefit Minnesota’s economy by supporting and creating jobs, increasing tourism and providing a more economical travel choice and will improve public safety through improvements at crossings.

The TCMC has the support of state chambers of commerce from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, as well as many local chamber chapters including mine right here in Winona. Our universities, Winona State and Saint Mary’s, whose students are frequent users of the current Empire Builder, as well as local units of government along the river have all officially supported this bonding request.

To be sure, the city of Winona stands to benefit the most from these rail improvements with nearly $20 million in signal and side rail improvements within our city alone. If I can be selfish for just a minute, please consider that Winona is home to the third largest port in the state, connecting rail, river, and highway freight transport that is so vital to our rural agricultural producers in Southeast Minnesota. We are also a destination for tourism and outdoor recreation enticing thousands of travelers throughout the U.S. to visit our region and Minnesota.

Winona isn’t the only community to benefit from this investment. Our neighbors to the north in St Paul, Red Wing, and surrounding communities will reap many of the same benefits as we do here in Winona. An additional $10 million in rail improvements will also be made at the river crossing near La Crescent.

The federal government has committed to $32 million in federal grants for the TCMC and state support has already been approved in Wisconsin and Illinois. Unfortunately, without Minnesota’s contribution, we will lose this opportunity to build up our rail infrastructure and the benefits that come with.

I could go on about the millions of dollars Amtrak spends buying goods from Minnesota businesses every year or the  more than $2 for $1 return on investment that benefits the entire region. The time has come for political differences to be set aside and for the house, senate, and governor to agree that these investments will benefit all Minnesotans for the foreseeable future.

 

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