Wadena could be a passenger train stop between Fargo and Twin Cities

WADENA, Minn. – A possible passenger train stop in Wadena is gaining momentum after members of Wadena City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of a project on the BNSF railroad.

The passenger depot hasn’t been used for such a thing since 1971, 50 years ago. Council members, at their regular council meeting on April 13, said the addition of the stop could help Wadena grow as a transport hub.

Mayor George Deiss mentioned that with Jefferson Lines bus services and this train stop, Wadena could become a stop-and-go location.

“There’s a very good possibility where we could be a pretty good transportation hub,” Deiss said.

“I think people are coming back to that… trains, even in rural areas,” Councilman Mark Lunde said of using trains for transportation. Councilor Jessie Gibbs said developed countries are investing in rail transport so they should support such a thing.

This new service between Fargo/Moorhead, the Twin Cities and Chicago uses Amtrak’s current Empire Builder route at speeds up to 79 miles per hour. The difference is that instead of the train passing through Wadena at 3:50 a.m., as the first train does, it would actually stop at about 8:36 a.m. and arrive in St. Paul/Minneapolis at 11:30 a.m.

This map shows potential additional stops for a passenger train including Wadena on the BNSF Railway. Image courtesy of All Aboard Minnesota

The resolution supports the idea of ​​funding the proposed second passenger train between the Twin Cities and Chicago by asking the Legislature to approve a minimum of $10 million that matches a Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant. ).

The State of Minnesota received a CRISI grant in 2020 totaling $31.8 million for infrastructure improvements along the existing freight railroad right-of-way to enable the second train. Once operational, those who support the project believe it could lead to passenger stops in small communities such as Detroit Lakes, Wadena, Staples, Little Falls and St. Cloud, on the way to the Twin Cities and beyond towards Chicago. The project is part of the larger $160 million MnDOT national rail plan.

It is considered an option for those who are unwilling or unable to drive or fly to these destinations. The group promoting this plan estimates that the second train will benefit Minnesota’s economy by approximately $25 million per year, supporting and increasing jobs, tourism and creating a more economical travel choice. . For every dollar invested in passenger rail service, it generates $3 in every community served, according to All Aboard Minnesota, the group promoting the second train plan.

Jose P. Rogers