Preliminary figures from Amtrak show more than 18,500 people used the rail service’s new passenger line from Chicago to St. Paul, Minnesota, during its first full month of service.

The Borealis line has stops in Milwaukee, Columbus, Portage, Wisconsin Dells, Tomah and La Crosse and began running two trains in late May. It joins the existing Hiawatha line, which runs between Milwaukee and Chicago, and Empire Builder line, which runs between St. Paul and Milwaukee.

Amtrak said in a news release that the 18,500 passengers amounts to a daily average of 300 passengers on each of the eastbound and westbound daily trains. The trains are operated by Amtrak under contracts with Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

“Amtrak and our state partners have always believed the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago corridor was a great one with tremendous opportunity,” said Ray Lang, vice president of Amtrak State Supported Service. “The ridership numbers we have seen so far confirm our belief and we expect this trend to continue as the service matures and we head into the peak summer travel season.

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Craig Thompson, Wisconsin secretary of transportation, said the Borealis is the first passenger rail service expansion in Wisconsin in 22 years, “and people are responding.” He said the initial data is “promising.”

“We’re hopeful the more people that ride Borealis and like it, the more successful it will be,” Thompson said.

Borealis trains leave St. Paul at midday and Chicago in the late morning and offer coach and business classes and a cafe car.



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