Will the U.S. Senate cut funding for Long Distance Amtrak trains this fall?


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.

WisARP-WITC Congressional Letter

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.

Check back to < http://www.WisARP.info > for more updates on the funding battle for Long Distance Amtrak trains.  Contact Terry Brown at < WisARPWisc@Gmail.com > with any questions.


Empire Builder #8 On-Time numbers for November 2019

December 12, 2019 – For those of you that attended the WisARP Membership meeting in Madison on Saturday, October 26, you saw my On-Time charts for the Empire Builder, both the #7 westbound and #8 eastbound.  For the #8 Builder, the days of heavy freight interference from high numbers of oil trains is over, but late running Amtrak trains isn’t over.

For the month of November 2019, overall the chart looks very good!  There were still a half-dozen days of seriously late trains, which I guess is apt to happen.  When you consider a 2200 mile trip through the mountains with little or no pressure to maintain performance, aging equipment with maintenance needs; it is likely to produce late trains without any other interference.

As discussed at the meeting, for Amtrak riders needing to get to Chicago to make a connection to another Amtrak train leaving late afternoon/ early evening, the TCMC as it is currently scheduled will not be a solution.  The only viable solution right now is writing your lawmakers in Washington D.C. to re-enact some teeth in Amtrak’s On-Time performance standards for the host freight railroads.

Eastbound8 Frequently Late chart nov2019  rpa-amtrak_ON TIME PERF_v8

Check out the YouTube link below from a recent House subcommittee meeting on Freight trains.  The exchange between Rep. DeFazio and AAR President Jefferies that’s roughly in the middle of the clip offers some hope.  Happy Holidays to all!!

Terry Brown, Vice-President Public Relations


WisARP Fall General Membership Mtg

Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers

Fall General Membership Meeting

October 26, 2019

La Quinta Inn & Suites, Madison, Wis.

5217 East Terrace Drive

Tentative Agenda
9:00 a.m. Social Hour, Coffee, Juice and Rolls
10:00 a.m. – Noon, 1:00 – 2:30 Speakers
Speakers will include
Arun Rao, Passenger Rail Implementation Manager, WisDOT
Status of passenger rail projects in Wisconsin

Al Schmitt, WisARP Board Member
John Parkyn, WisARP President
Noon Lunch
2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Elections
3:00 p.m. Adjournment
Register today! You can register online at https://reg.planetreg.com/E91515143528663
Or Mail the coupon below to: Mark Weitenbeck
3385 S. 119th St.
West Allis, WI 53227-3943

Fee $25 ($35 after October 18th) Youth (age 22 and under) $5
Make checks payable to WisARP. For questions, 414-541-1112 or weitenbeck@sbcglobal.net
Name(s)__________________________________________ No. in party________
Are you interested in carpooling? _______ Phone number ____________________
Will you be staying over in Madison on Friday night? _____ Saturday night? ____
If “yes” to staying over in Madison either night, would you be interested in having dinner with other WisARP
members? _____
Email address ________________________________________________________

TCMC Funding Battle Continues

June 28, 2019 — Regardless of what you’ve heard about the Wisconsin budget status, we all need to keep telling everyone about the benefits of the TCMC train.

Hopefully you know what the TCMC train is:  A second daily passenger train between the Twin Cities (St. Paul, MN.) – Milwaukee & Chicago.  This train will travel on the Empire Builder route through central and western Wisconsin, in addition to stops at Milwaukee, Sturtevant and the Mitchell Airport Station.

As I type the TCMC train is not completely shut out of the 2019-2021 Biennial Budget process, but the road to success is long and hard now.

In the meantime, your voice expressed to your elected representatives in Madison is still very important, regardless of the outcome of the 2019-2021 budget.  If you don’t know how to contact your representatives over this topic, two documents are attached to this post to help you out.

WisARP sample legis letter verA2             WisARP sample legis letter verB2

These two documents are sample letters you can use contacting your Senators and Assembly Representatives.  They are very similar, but the letter information is presented in a different order.  Choose the one that represents your feelings best.  Absolutely no problem if you decide to tweak the letter or add your own personal experience to make it stronger.  The letter also contains the website URL for finding out who your representatives are and how you can contact them.

WisARP would like to thank you in advance for taking the time to contact your Madison lawmakers.  Even if you do not live along the Empire Builder route of the TCMC train, your input is still very important.  Do not discount the value of your contribution at this time.

I would like to thank Mark Weitenbeck for his invaluable contributions to this post and sample letters.  Please contact me at < WisARPwisc@gmail.com > if you have any questions.



The following text is from the May 15, 2019 TCMC Newsletter by Terry Brown, WisARP Vice-President of Communications.

For those in attendance at the February Town Hall Meetings, or if you caught the video at the WisARP YouTube Channel, you heard about the State of Illinois adding a regional train between Chicago and Carbondale called the Saluki.  Digging into numbers and facts has generated an interesting review.

First, this cannot be an apples-to-apples comparison.  When the Saluki was inaugurated in October 2006, there were already two trains running between Carbondale and Chicago.  There currently is just one train running between the Twin Cities and Chicago.   Upon looking at the numbers you will find evidence to back up what was said about escalating ridership, and you’ll better understand how the 2015 Amtrak report on the second train proposal predicted higher ridership than the first train.

WisARP site TCMC TRAIN Carbondale projections June 27

The rest of the story is available on the PDF file download, including the chart with numbers of the Saluki train.  WisARP continues to encourage members to contact their legislators in Madison to approve funding for the TCMC train, regardless of the budget process at the time you read this story.

Contact Terry Brown at WisARPWisc@gmail.com with additional questions or copies of the TCMC Newsletters.



March 26, 2019 – This Saturday, March 30, will mark the first WisARP General Meeting held in Portage, WI., an Empire Builder stop.  The location is Dino’s Restaurant in Portage with the first speaker scheduled to start at 10:00am.

The primary topic of this meeting will be updates and more information regarding the Twin Cities- Milwaukee- Chicago (TCMC) train, a second daily train along the Empire Builder route.  Portage would also be a stop for the TCMC train, potentially offering two daily Amtrak trains each direction daily.

This meeting is also a first, inviting members of the general public to attend for free during the morning session.  Pre-registration is required to insure adequate seating.  The morning session will feature Derrick James of Amtrak and Arun Rao of WisDOT.  Mr. James will be speaking about updates to Amtrak Midwest and it’s role in supporting the TCMC train.  Mr. Rao will be giving updates on the planning process of the TCMC train and current budget process in Madison.

Meeting Notice (2019 – March 30) FREE morning

A link to download the registration form is above.  Free attendees can forward the information to Wisarpwisc@gmail.com.  Those paying to enjoy lunch and the afternoon session can register online.  Location details are on the registration form.

For those staying for the afternoon, City of Portage Director of Business Planning & Development Steven Sobiek will be offering a presentation about Portage and it’s transportation history.  Jerry Ratliff from All Aboard Minnesota will update his state’s news on the TCMC train and an additional Amtrak train to Duluth/ Superior.

Check out WisARP on YouTube!  Search for WisARP Wisconsin.

Did Gov. Evers Allocate Money for the TCMC Train?

March 15, 2019 – PRESS RELEASE for immediate release, prepared by Terry Brown.

As I’m sure you are aware, several weeks ago Governor Evers released his biennial budget.  The analysis began and several outlets have noted Line 18 of the Transportation section of the budget was aimed at passenger rail.

I’m certain most of these funds are for the Hiawatha, but not all.  I believe the intent for some of this money should go towards the TCMC train.

WisARP PR mar15 TCMC budget correction

The link above is a PDF file containing the full Press Release.  WisARP is asking everyone to please contact your Madison lawmakers and make them aware of this oversight.