Federal grant awarded for new passenger train cars on Hiawatha service

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) will purchase nine passenger train cars after it received a nearly $26 million federal grant.

The $25.7 million Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant (SOGR Program) from the Federal Railroad Administration will be used to purchase three cab-coach cars and six coach cars on the Amtrak Hiawatha service. It will also replace equipment that is nearing the end of its useful life and costly to maintain.

“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.”

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. .

The new passenger cars will expand the train’s seating capacity. According to WisDOT, 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.

“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 said 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.