WisDOT awarded federal grant for new passenger train cars

Release date: August 23, 2019

Federal Railroad Administration awarded the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) a $25.7 million Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant (SOGR Program) to acquire new passenger rail cars for use on the Amtrak Hiawatha service. WisDOT will purchase three cab-coach cars and six coach cars with the grant, replacing equipment that is nearing the end of its useful life and costly to maintain.

WisDOT plans to add the equipment to the Midwest Rail equipment pool; a fleet of equipment already being manufactured for use on eight Amtrak Midwest routes.  Adding these additional cars to that pool will ensure that the Hiawatha Service will be fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment from this fleet. 

“This is great news for our passengers,” said Craig Thompson, WisDOT Secretary-designee. “The public will get their first glimpse of the new cars beginning late 2020.”

The new passenger cars will expand the train’s seating capacity. The Amtrak Hiawatha is the busiest train in the Midwest and ninth busiest in the nation, serving almost 860,000 passengers in 2018. Ridership has grown by six percent in the first six months of 2019. In addition to expanding capacity the new cars will reduce fuel consumption, reduce overhaul costs, increase equipment reliability and improve accessibility for passengers with disabilities.
“This rail equipment supports planned increases in service frequency in the fast-growing Milwaukee-Chicago corridor and would substantially improve intercity passenger rail service,” said Amtrak Senior Director Ray Lang. “This advances the Amtrak goal of expanding and improving corridor services and setting more ridership records.”

Lang pointed out this is the second FRA grant announcement this week in support of the very popular Amtrak Midwest(SM) corridor, with the $17.8 million granted to Metra to support the construction of a new grade-separated double-tracked rail bridge over Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.

The Hiawatha Service, supported by both Wisconsin and Illinois Departments of Transportation, is part of Amtrak Midwest, a network of regional trains that connect cities across the Midwest. Amtrak Midwest offers connections such as Milwaukee-St. Louis three times daily, Milwaukee-Dearborn/Detroit/Pontiac two times daily, and many more. The network made schedule adjustments this past year to improve connections between trains connecting at Chicago.

The Hiawatha Service and Amtrak Midwest trains offer premium accommodations with reclining seats with spacious two-across seating, tray tables, reading lights, complimentary wi-fi, spacious restrooms, and power outlets.

Amtrak Thruway bus services also provide convenient connections between several Wisconsin cities and the Hiawatha Service trains in Milwaukee. The newest service, started July 1, 2019, is the I-41 Thruway bus service that connects Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, and Fond du Lac to the Milwaukee Intermodal station and the Milwaukee airport.

For more information, contact:

WisDOT Office of Public Affairs
(608) 266-3581, opa.exec@dot.wi.gov