From a cost perspective, if you can't run 3-4 trains between CHI-MSP for the cost to run one EB, I must be missing something here.
One of the *several* things you are missing is freight railroad demands. They really, really, really dislike giving up additional slots. The operations costs are part of it. More is the capital demands.
I'd say, at an guess, that CP would require full double tracking of the entire route from St. Paul to Chicago, and triple tracking in several places. At that point it makes more sense to buy the track so that Amtrak can *secure* the benefits of double tracking *permanently*. After certain cheaty-cheaty behavior by CSX and UP in the past, where they took government money to upgrade tracks for passenger service and then used the capacity for freight service and hosed the passengers, this is the only sane thing to do.
Do you really think that cutting service on a line which BREAKS EVEN is going to pay for BUYING THE ENTIRE ROUTE FROM MSP TO CHI AND DOUBLE TRACKING IT? If so, you are wrong.
I have emphasized over and over again the importance of the passenger rail operator controlling the tracks. Would I be willing to give up a long-distance train service if it meant that Amtrak got its own, wholly-owned tracks from Chicago to Porter, Indiana (where the Amtrak-owned Michigan line branches off)? Well, yeah, actually, I would. That would have huge massive long-term payback. In addition to the Michigan services, the LSL and CL would start running more reliably on time.
But those two things aren't even the same order of magnitude. Cancelling the Sunset Limited gets you, about $14 million dollars per year. (Less for all the others.) Buying South of the Lake costs $510 million dollars. In 2002 dollars. You'd have to cancel the Sunset Limited for 37 years to accumulate enough money, if there's no inflation since 2002, which there is. So this is nonsense.
Edited by neroden, 08 July 2017 - 02:00 PM.