WisARP and All Aboard WI working to save Amtrak’s Empire Builder Service in Wisconsin
By Mark Quam
This story, written by Mark Quam, is from the August 15, 2019 issue of the TCMC Newsletter. Quam is very involved in Passenger Rail advocacy in the State of Wisconsin. He is Vice President of All Aboard Wisconsin. He is also Secretary of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition trying to start passenger rail service between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities.
Efforts are currently underway by the White House to shut down Amtrak’s long distance train system this October. In response to this recent development, All Aboard Arizona has taken on a national effort to help save Amtrak’s long distance trains west of the Mississippi River. All Aboard Arizona and several other western passenger rail organizations (see sidebar, page two) recently appointed Tony Trifiletti as Coordinator of the Western Interstate Trains Coalition. (WITC)
WITC currently has efforts underway to save Amtrak’s long distance trains which serve the Midwest, Southwest and Western States. Those routes would include the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight and the Sunset Limited. The goal is to form partnerships and working relationships with other non-profit passenger rail organizations from the Midwest, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Plains Region, Mountain Region and South Central States and basically everything west of Chicago and the Mississippi River.
WITC is interested in having Wisconsin form some type of public outreach campaign to reach out to WI mayors, WI local officials, WI chambers of commerce, WI state legislators, WI U.S. Congressional Representatives and WI U.S. Senators. The goal is to gain as much local support from WI cities and people who live near or along Amtrak’s Empire Builder route in Wisconsin. This is an urgent situation which needs to be addressed this August and September. Congress will vote on this matter in October.
In response to Trifiletti’s efforts, AAW and WisARP have taken an interest in doing some outreach efforts to help save the Empire Builder service in Wisconsin. This will be a big task. Mark Quam, Vice President of AAW has reached out to Terry Brown with WisARP and would like to see both organizations work together to contact their Wisconsin U.S. Senators and Wisconsin Congressional Representatives with phone calls and letters. WITC and All Aboard Arizona has put together a tool packet guide for doing outreach. A coordinated effort between WisARP, AAW and even ProRail might make all the difference here in Wisconsin to save the Empire Builder. Members from all organizations are urged to get involved and make a difference.
Included in this post is a sample letter you can download to help create a letter to send to Senators Baldwin and Johnson, and your representative in the House. This issue is very important to our neighbors to the west in Minnesota, but it is also very important to many Wisconsin riders that travel the Empire Builder west of St. Paul, MN. Your participation in this issue is very much appreciated!
Western Interstate Trains Coalition has created a very informative YouTube video regarding this topic.