Federal grant awarded for new Amtrak Midwest passenger rolling stock
Expected to enter service from 2020, the new rolling stock will increase seating capacity and improve accessibility for disabled passengers.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has 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 rolling stock 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 that which is 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 trains to that pool will ensure that the Hiawatha Service will be fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment from this fleet.
Craig Thompson, WisDOT Secretary-designee, said: “This is great news for our passengers. The public will get their first glimpse of the new cars beginning late 2020.”
The new trains will increase the seating capacity for passengers. 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 per cent in the first six months of 2019. In addition to expanding capacity the new trains will reduce fuel consumption, reduce overhaul costs, increase equipment reliability and improve accessibility for passengers with disabilities.
Amtrak Senior Director, Ray Lang, said: “This rail equipment supports planned increases in service frequency in the fast-growing Milwaukee-Chicago corridor and would substantially improve intercity passenger rail service. 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 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.