The second passenger train from the Twin Cities to Chicago was, once again, not funded in Minnesota's budget.
Gov. Tim Walz signed the state's budget on Friday, May 31. The $48.3 billion budget for the next two years was a compromise between Walz, the Minnesota House (Democratic majority) and Minnesota Senate (Republican majority).
The second passenger train had been part of Walz's proposed budget, but on May 25 the House and Senate passed a transportation finance bill of $6.7 billion. This bill left out items such as the proposed gas tax, the increase in vehicle registration fees and the second passenger train.
Without funding, the second phase of creating a second rail from the Twin Cities to Milwaukee and Chicago cannot begin. The Great River Rail Commission's website explained:
"The first phase of planning is essentially complete. The second phase of planning requires an environmental analysis, preliminary design, and will generate a service development plan." The request for $4 million from the Legislature was not granted.
Red Wing was one of the planned Minnesota stops for the proposed second train. Mayor Sean Dowse has worked as an advocate with the Great River Rail Commission. The Goodhue County Board voted on March 5 to support next steps for the second train.
Though the rail was not funded in 2018 or 2019, the commission's website quoted Mark Vaughan, the commission's chair:
"We're disappointed, but we are taking away some positives from the legislative session. We had support from the governor, a number of legislators and from people, businesses and governments all along the River Route."
Vaughan also stated: "We believe in this project. We will build on our accomplishments this year and continue to seek state funds to match federal funding. This is important to people and businesses along the River Route, as well as for the entire state."
The Great River Rail Commission will seek funding for a second train during the 2020 legislative session.
The Amtrak's existing Empire Builder travels between Chicago and Seattle, with scheduled stops in Red Wing at 8:55 a.m. for the eastbound train and 8:49 p.m. for the westbound train.