Passenger traffic on Amtrak’s Milwaukee to Chicago line hits new high

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 am

Passenger traffic on Amtrak’s Hiawatha service between Milwaukee and Chicago hit a new high during the 2018 fiscal year.

The Hiawatha served 844,396 passengers in the 2018 fiscal year, up 1.8 percent from fiscal 2017, according to Amtrak, which ends its fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The Hiawatha route is the 8th busiest in the Amtrak network and is the federal government railroad’s busiest route in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, passenger traffic on Amtrak’s Empire Builder route, which goes from Chicago through Wisconsin to Seattle or Portland, Oregon, was down 5.6 percent during the 2018 fiscal year to 428,854.

Amtrak reported an operating loss of $168 million during the 2018fiscal year, a 13.3 percent improvement from a $193.7 million operating loss in fiscal 2017. Amtrak said its 2018 operating loss was the “best Amtrak operating performance to date.”

Amtrak also reported record revenue for the fiscal year of $3.38 billion, up 2.2 percent from 2017.

“We remain on track to cover total operating costs from ticket and other revenues in the next few years, which will allow us to focus funding on business improvements and expansion,” said Amtrak board chair Tony Coscia.

The Hiawatha line is partially supported by funds from Wisconsin and Illinois taxpayers. Plans have been in the works in recent years to add more daily service on the Hiawatha line. Adding three additional daily roundtrips between Milwaukee and Chicago would require $195 million in infrastructure upgrades, a WisDOT representative reported earlier this year.

In September, the Illinois Department of Transportation said it would not allow plans to expand the Hiawatha service to move forward until local community concerns were addressed.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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