As Amtrak service expands, small communities hope to reap benefits

  • Author: Ryan Burk
  • Source: Spectrum News 1

At the Amtrak station in Portage, about 35 miles north of Madison, the Empire Builder rolls through town twice a day. One train is bound for Seattle, the other for Chicago. On a warm afternoon, the train stops in town en route to Chicago as a half dozen or so passengers hop aboard.

It is a scene that has played out for decades. However, things could soon change.

Amtrak Spokesman Marc Magliari said increased service between Chicago, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul could begin as early as later this year.

Right now, Amtrak’s Empire Builder has one departure in each direction daily. Soon, a second daily train is expected to be added.

In addition to Milwaukee, the train would make intermediate stops in other Wisconsin cities currently served by the Empire Builder, including Portage, Tomah, Wisconsin Dells and La Crosse.

Magliari said any time train frequency is increased, it usually bodes well for total ridership, as the chance of a train fitting a passenger’s schedule increases.

“The more opportunities people have to ride, the more the train matches the schedule to meet their need, rather than match their schedule to the trains, the better we are connecting all across the middle of Wisconsin,” said Magliari.

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