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Amtrak’s Borealis Route Expands Wisconsin Rail Service

Amtrak’s Borealis Route Expands Wisconsin Rail Service

May 21, 2024 10:59 AM CDT
By: Stuart J. Wattles

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MILWAUKEE, Wis (Civic Media) — Amtrak’s new Borealis route from the Twin Cities to Chicago began service Tuesday, doubling passenger train options across Wisconsin with eight stops in the state.

The inaugural run Tuesday morning departed Minneapolis-St. Paul and is making stops in Wisconsin cities including La Crosse, Tomah, Wisconsin Dells, Portage, Columbus and Milwaukee before reaching Chicago. A second train will make the return trip from Chicago to the Twin Cities later in the day.

“After years of disinvestment in the transportation system and missed opportunities for passenger rail in Wisconsin, our state was long overdue for a new train service to meet travelers’ demand for a safe, efficient, and sustainable way to get where they need to go,” said Governor Tony Evers in a statement. “This new rail will provide countless opportunities for economic growth and for visitors and locals alike to find their next Wisconsin adventure and experience communities across our state, and we are thrilled that through hard work and public and private collaboration, we were finally able to make this happen. This is only the beginning of our work to expand passenger rail in Wisconsin as we continue our work to build the 21st-century infrastructure Wisconsinites have long deserved.”

ALL ABOARD: Today’s the big day! The new @Amtrak Borealis train service will make its inaugural trip across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. It’s a historic event for Wisconsin as it’s been 22 years since passenger rail has been expanded in the state.— Wisconsin DOT (@WisconsinDOT) May 21, 2024

One-way tickets on the new Borealis line start at $41, with discounts available for some groups like seniors, military personnel and students. Detailed schedules and booking are available on Amtrak’s website.

The new route restores a second daily train after a 20-year gap when Wisconsin had just one Amtrak service running between Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul, the long-running Empire Builder line.

The Borealis line supplements Amtrak’s existing Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee, which saw over 636,000 passengers last fiscal year and is one of the rail company’s busiest corridors nationwide.

There is an effort to expand rail service in the state. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Corridor Investment and Development program is actively exploring the feasibility of introducing new or improved passenger rail services across Wisconsin. The initiative is attempting to use funding opportunities made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. There are five corridors selected for initial studies

  • Chicago–Milwaukee Corridor
  • Milwaukee–Madison–Eau Claire–Twin Cities Corridor
  • Hiawatha Extension to Green Bay (Chicago–Milwaukee–Green Bay)
  • Twin Cities–Milwaukee–Chicago Corridor (for a second Borealis frequency, also via La Crosse)
  • Eau Claire–Twin Cities Corridor (project sponsored by Eau Claire County)
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