The Mississippi River basin has been a transportation corridor since humans first pushed off from its muddy banks into its strong current hundreds of years ago. Then, the Iron Horse updated the valley's transportation method as it wound along the mighty Mississippi's banks through the oak and black walnut covered bluffs and coulees in the 1800s.
Now, the Great River Rail Commission seeks to redefine a 126-mile portion of this traditional transportation corridor with first, an additional round-trip passenger train each day. But in the future, the Commission envisions faster, more frequent service. Imagine the attractiveness of trains reaching speeds of 110 miles per hour. Trains that are the picture of modern comfort, reliability and technological innovation. This sleek, speedy conveyance, traveling from a revitalized Union Depot in Saint Paul through picturesque river towns, would cut into Wisconsin at La Crescent on its way to Milwaukee and Chicago and provide passengers with a fast, reliable, safe alternative to highway and air travel.
Major public projects require careful study to ensure the most cost-effective approaches are taken to not only accomplish a goal, but to do so with minimal impact on the environment and the residents who live nearby. With broad evaluation of costs and benefits on a Midwest Regional Rail System completed, a Comprehensive Statewide Passenger & Freight Rail Plan completed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the selection of the Mississippi River Route by MnDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration as the preferred line for the proposed high-speed rail system, the Commission has placed the corridor in position for additional study and eventual implementation.
The process is complicated. Fortunately, the Great River Rail Commission has a strong foundation in place, a network of informed and energetic elected officials representing 18 governmental agencies. This group is serious about sharing information about the proposal in an educational campaign to raise awareness, engage communities and proactively communicate toward successful advocacy of the River Route.
The Commission desires to move from a conceptual vision of a transportation alternative described with charts, graphs and numbers to building support for a reality that showcases the advantages of modern high-speed rail travel through southeastern Minnesota's Mississippi River valley, a natural jewel, and among the most beautiful locations in America.
The study of high-speed rail service in the corridor took place earlier this decade, and is currently on hold. The Great River Rail Commission was formerly called the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission. More historical information about the commission is at the bottom of the About the Commission page.