This was a couple years ago now, but when I read through the report, my understanding was that MSP-Chicago is the outer edge of what can be done in a single crew shift, and going to St Cloud would require a crew change in Winona (why there specifically, idk). Since there's not a BNSF base in Winona, a crew change would require extra expenses to move people around and it wound up adding a lot more to the operational cost than you'd expect from an extra 70 miles.
Then, once the endpoint was cut back to the MSP metro, the capital costs of expanding TF or Fridley Stations, and the additional track work required to get there, was deemed not worth it and they settled on SPUD as the endpoint.
From my interested layperson's view, the most likely scenario to extend it past SPUD would be waiting for NLX to eventually get moving and do those track upgrades, then extend the TCMC train to the newly Amtrak-ready TFS or Fridley Station, or Foley or wherever NLX's north metro stop ends up being.
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