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Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission Seeks State Funds for Second Train

MNHSR - January 26, 2017


Kevin Roggenbuck

MN High-Speed Rail Commission



January 26, 2017 (Red Wing, Minn.) – Passenger rail advocates in southeastern Minnesota want the state to provide a portion of the funding needed to complete planning for a second train from the Twin Cities to Chicago. The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission unanimously approved a resolution at its last meeting in support of a $23 million general obligation bonding request for passenger rail service across the state. Non-federal funding is needed to continue to develop the passenger rail system identified in the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s 2015 State Rail Plan, including the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Second Train, the Northern Lights Express, and initiate work with local partners on emerging corridors.

“Amtrak’s passenger rail ridership is increasing, we had positive results from our feasibility study, and we hear from many of our constituents that a second train should be added immediately,” said Janice Rettman, chair of the MNHSR Commission and a Ramsey County Commissioner. “Many local partners have already come forward to fund the current phase of work, but we need state funds to start the next phase and qualify these projects for possible federal funding.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is currently leading an operations analysis, and determining necessary infrastructure improvements and capital costs on the second train project. A state funding match is required to apply for federal FAST Act funds.

“We believe the investment in passenger rail will be greatly beneficial to Minnesota,” Rettman explained. “It’s good for travelers, our economy, freight rail, and the environment.” Nearly ten million trips are taken annually between the Twin Cities and Chicago, with about 104,000 of those trips on Amtrak’s Empire Builder. A feasibility study showed a second train would serve an estimated 155,000 additional trips.

The commission also approved a resolution supporting a $1 million state funding request for rail improvements in Saint Paul. The request is being made by the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA) which seeks collaboration with the state of Minnesota in funding the environmental analysis and engineering of a grade separation project in the Saint Paul rail yards. The project would ease freight rail congestion and benefit passenger rail service by improving fluidity around Union Depot. The east metro rail yard handles 10,000 cars per day, or five percent of the nation’s freight volume.

About the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission

The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission is one of the leading authoritative voices on high-speed rail in Minnesota. Comprised of elected officials from 16 local governments, the commission advocates for the development of Minnesota’s first high-speed rail line within the federally designated high-speed rail corridor that connects the Twin Cities to Milwaukee and Chicago. The commission is a strong proponent of bringing high-speed rail to the Midwest through the scenic upper Mississippi River valley.

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