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Officials to study second daily round-trip train from Chicago to Twin Cities

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ramsey County officials have voted to provide up to $300,000 for the study of a second daily round-trip train between St. Paul and Chicago.

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted 7-0 Tuesday to finalize a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and move forward with the first phase of a $600,000 environmental assessment. Wisconsin would fund the other half.

An Amtrak feasibility study released last year predicted ridership on a second train could exceed 150,000 passengers a year, but Minnesota and Wisconsin would have to subsidize about $6.6 million annually. About 100,000 people ride a train between Chicago and St. Paul each year.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports the first phase of the environmental study would be done by end of December 2017 and have finer estimates for construction, capital and operating costs.

Currently, Amtrak’s Empire Builder connects Chicago to St. Paul; the train continues on to Seattle and Portland, Ore. That train leaves Chicago at 2:15 p.m. daily, arriving in St. Paul at 10 p.m. Westbound trains from Seattle/Portland leave St. Paul at 8 a.m., arriving in Chicago at 3:55 p.m.