Plans to increase Amtrak rail service through the La Crosse area received a $32 million boost from the federal government.
Transportation officials from Wisconsin and Minnesota announced Wednesday a federal grant to add a second daily round trip of the Empire Builder train, starting in 2024.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation secretary Craig Thompson said the newest funding was a joint effort between the two states.
During an event at La Crosse’s Amtrak depot, Thompson said Wisconsin “decided to apply for a grant, with the federal government, and Minnesota was a partner of ours, and we were successful. We got the money, and we’re out making improvements right now.”
The expansion of Amtrak service will require rebuilding tracks through La Crosse and La Crescent, Minn., and reconstructing a couple of rail crossings near the depot.
The project is known as the TCMC Intercity Passenger Rail Project. Those letters stand for ‘Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago,” the route of expanded Amtrak passenger rail service which includes La Crosse, Winona, and Tomah.
The Empire Builder train already stops twice a day at the La Crosse depot.
Wisconsin state Sen. Brad Pfaff said increased rail service is part of a package of infrastructure changes needed to build the economy.
“We need to continue to invest in air, we need to continue to invest in our ports here in western Wisconsin,” Pfaff said. “We need to have a strong interstate highway system as well as a state trunk highway, county road and town road system, and we need to make sure that we invest in rail.”