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Increased train service gets hearing in La Crosse

Brad Williams

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The state of Minnesota is looking to increase Amtrak stops, which could go through the La Crosse area.

At a public hearing in La Crosse on Monday, the organization All Aboard Minnesota made a pitch for more daily stops by Amtrak.

At a public hearing in La Crosse, Brian Nelson with All Aboard Minnesota pitches for more daily stops by Amtrak through the city.

La Crosse’s depot only sees stops twice a day — an eastbound train in late morning or a westbound train at night. About 27,000 passengers got on or off Amtrak trains in La Crosse last year.

Research states that rail travel in the city would increase by 70 percent within a year of a train service increase in La Crosse.

“If the legislature funds it and we’re eligible for matching grants from the federal government, new service could be realized by 2021-2022,” Brian Nelson of All Aboard Minnesota said. “So, it’s not that far off. It could be even sooner.”

The new stops would add an eastbound Amtrak just after 2 p.m. and a westbound stop around 3 p.m.

Nelson said all the states served between Chicago and Minneapolis would have to get “aboard” to make the expansion work.

“So this would be a joint state funded operation between Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota,” he said. “So, we do need the states to work together.”

Nelson argued that train service is easily accessible to most people living in Minnesota.

“When you look at the state of Minnesota, 67 percent of the population lives within 30 miles of where the Empire Builder currently runs,” he said. “So, there’s tremendous untapped potential, not only in urban, but more outstate cities, as well.”

Nelson urges rail travelers to ask their lawmakers to support more Amtrak service.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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