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Southeast Minnesotans could have another option to get to Chicago


WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -- As many Americans await the chance to travel once again, southeast Minnesota could have another option to get to one of the biggest cities in America.

The following map shows the proposed route for a second daily roundtrip Amtrak passenger train between St. Paul and Chicago.

Courtesy: MnDOT

There would be stops in Red Wing and Winona, as well as La Crosse.

The Great River Rail Commission is leading the effort. That group is made up of elected officials from Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to its website.

It would give travelers another option besides the existing Amtrak Empire Builder line. The project would cost $53 million, according to the commission.

The commission said it will benefit tourism by bringing visitors to Minnesota's cities for sporting events, festivals and natural attractions. It added that construction work on track and station areas would lead to job creation.

Organizers are nearly ready to begin final planning and then construction.

Here's the holdup: they're still waiting on $10 million from Minnesota. That local match is required in order to deliver a $31.8 million grant, which was provided by the Federal Railroad Administration last year.

Gov. Tim Walz did include the funding in his latest bonding bill proposal, but the State Legislature needs to approve it.

Project leaders estimate the train could begin operating as early as 2023. That depends on what happens with the funding.

The commission is holding a virtual meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday to provide more details about the project.

Click here if you want to take part.

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Byron Tollefson

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