Wadena Passenger Train Stop Gains Momentum – Wadena Pioneer Journal

A potential passenger train stop in Wadena is gaining momentum after Wadena City Council members 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 stop here around 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 cause passenger stops in small communities like Detroit Lakes, Wadena, Staples, Little Falls and St. Cloud, on the way from the Twin Cities and beyond to 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.

The Wadena Depot building was vacant until April 24, 2008, when the Wadena Healthy Region Partners (Partners) moved their office to the location. Partners is the local 501(c)(3) community nonprofit that organized and funded the restoration efforts that began when The Partners leased the property to the city in July 2003.

They have since moved and the Wadena Chamber of Commerce moved in. The site is currently a tourist stop, an information center and can be rented out for events.

Jose P. Rogers