- Passenger Rail Forum
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Passenger Rail Initiatives
State Rail Plan Public Comments
The following comments were submitted to MnDOT through the online commenting system:
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It is critical for the growth and prosperity of the Twin Ports, northeast and northcentral Minnesota that the North Star line be developed on schedule and not be pushed back in line as part of any prioritization process. The long term vitality of our state demands that we promote smart growth in all regions of Minnesota and northern Minnesota has tremendous potential for contributing enormously if this connection is put in place. High speed rail from the Twin Ports could also strongly promote the use of the Twin Cities' international airport by northern MN residents - who now have a 3-5 hour journey to the Twin Cities to catch a flight and only one or two flights per day out of regional airports.
-Kevin & Cheryl
I'm all for this plan! I think it would give me the opportunity to go to the twin cities more often, and I will definately be using the rail service.
-Laura, Duluth, MN
I would like to submit my two cents worth about the high speed rail in Minnesota.
I for one thing, I would like to see more passenger rail service available in Minnesota. I do think that the new high speed line that the state is looking into should take a new route in Minnesota. That route should include the Mayo Clinic City of Rochester. The Mayo Clinic is a destination for a lot of people. People Not just in the U.S. but world wide. The Empire Builder already exists on one of the proposed routes along the Mississippi river and we should leave it running that way. It would be another route option for passengers to choose and a reroute option if one line has to be closed down temporarily for any reason. As for the tourist, the Empire Builder route is beautiful along the river and it should be enjoyed at the speed the Builder runs at now.
If existing rail lines are preferred then I have a suggestion. I think From St. Paul the line could go down along the Union Pacific route south to Owatonna then the Canadian Pacific route through Rochester to Winona. Hopefully the UP and CP would be willing to work with that idea.
In the future, Owatonna could be a viable rail hub connecting south through Albert Lea or Austin and west through Waseca to Mankato. Could be a future line that would head southwest to Sioux Falls, SD also.
Thanks' for taking the time to read my two cents.
-Kevin, Plymouth, MN
The meeting documents that have been posted online are quite impressive! It is great to see Minnesota positioning itself to take advantage of the federal initiatives that have come to fruition recently.
A key component, I believe, will be ensuring Minnesota is connected to the Chicago High Speed Rail network identified as a result of the stimulus funds. It will provide air-competitive times to Chicago with greater access along the route than is possible by air. Further, it creates the opportunity to connect with a large number of other high speed connections, providing a viable alternative to those who choose not to, or cannot, drive or fly.
-Frank, St. Paul, MN
Why hasn't it already been implemented and service in place now? Minnesota should be a leader in the field, not a follower. Get your collective acts together (DOT, Governor, Legislature, etc.) to make this happen as fast as humanly possible. Minnesota and the US are WAY behind Europe in providing fast, efficient, and cost effective rail transit. If this were in place now, I would gladly ride a train from Duluth to the cities often. No I have to ride a slow bus or fly NWA at over $300 roundtrip between Duluth and Mpls. Incredible!
-Diane, Duluth, MN
MnDOT: Our direction from the Governor, the Legislature, and the Commissioner of Transportation is that Minnesota definitely wants to become a leader in this field. MnDOT did support and run passenger trains, particularly the service between Duluth/Superior and Minneapolis/St. Paul from 1975 until 1985, when state budget shortages and AMTRAK equipment problems conspired to end the trains. Ridership at that time was modest at best, and the service had no ongoing support to help preserve it. High speed service via train to the Twin Cities, Chicago, Duluth, and other destinations has now regained popular support and has become a national priority, in part to become competitive with other industrialized countries around the globe.
I have been very interested in passenger rail service for a number of years and have made contacts with the Wisconsin DOT,
MN Rail and Freight DOT in St. Paul, our Rochester District as well as many stake holders in our region. For a number of years I have also been a member in the Midwest High Speed Rail Association in an attempt to keep up with what is happening. I want to make sure the State of Minnesota DOT understands how much our community relies on Amtrak and appreciates passenger rail services in Winona.
Because of our diverse population, Winona has a significant need for passenger rail service. We have a large higher education student body that uses Amtrak on a regular basis. Also, our aging population is using this service on an increasing basis as they become less able to drive. Another reason we use this service is that our population economic base is very diverse. Many businesses use Amtrak for small fast freight that can be sent in a very timely fashion, faster that other options for a few of our businesses. Many executives also use Amtrak because they can work on the train while they travel and even use cell phones, and computers, sometimes even doing business in the dinning car or elsewhere that air travel does not accommodate. It is direct and there is no waiting in an airport which means unproductive time etc.. We have another segment of the population that can't afford to fly and rail services are much less expensive than air travel, so we are serving the middle and lower income people in our community who desire commuting to see other family members or other reasons. Our needs are great and will increase over time.
Winona State University is highly regarded nationally and certainly in Minnesota for it's high academic record. It is a destination for our citizens as well as industries in our State needing education or continuing education. St. Mary's University and Southeastern Technical Institute are also very important in our community. Winona has the second largest number of passengers in the State of MN only surpassed by the Twin Cities. We are a close equal to the number of passengers to La Crosse, Wisconsin. even though our overall population is less in density.
Winona has been a historic railroad hub that has been and is now vital to the economic health of the State of Minnesota. We can use Winona as a Stop on the preferred River Route not only for our area and explicit needs, but also we can act as a feeder stop in the future to service Rochester, Owatonna and westward to bring together our University system and all of Southeastern Minnesota business community with the Twin Cities and Chicago. Winona can be a hub for buses, cabs, park and ride etc. We can service other communities with Rail Diesel Cars going west using the old DM&E line with future upgrades of that rail line. In this way we can have a Win Win for Winona, Rochester and all other communities west.
I feel strongly that we should take advantage of the current opportunities with the Stimulus Package to upgrade our existing infrastructure for both passenger rail service and our freight service needs, thus improving safety and service for both. As we have increased awareness of the advantages of rail services and traffic, we can expand our vision. It is prudent and economical to move forward now with what we are currently prepared for so we are not left out and end up with nothing to help our State move forward. Over time I can see that perhaps Rochester might want another connection for itself to the Twin Cities that would be separate from this initiative; however, we are not prepared for that at this time and to delay is unacceptable. Also, our investment now will never be wasted, since improving current infrastructure and improving safety is vital to both passenger rail service and freight service which will always be with us.
As I understand from a close contact in Washington, the Obama administration is looking to advance more money in 2010 in the transportation bill in which we could add other rail initiatives such as what Rochester might want for itself to the Twin Cities, but they should not destroy all of the work and research that has been done on the River Initiative by a number of stakeholders. As an aside, we do have a bus that takes any Amtrak passengers up to Rochester now and the average number of passengers wanting to go to Rochester is about two per day. That number pails in comparison to the number that want to get on and off for a Winona destination and that of the Twin Cities. Also, if we move the initiative to Rochester, passengers would need to be on the train longer, even if at a higher speed they claim, because they are over one hundred miles west of the River Route. To make all passenger destine for the Twin Cities to go an additional perhaps 50 miles our of their way and then have another stop in Rochester in not logical or practical from either a time or economic perspective.
I have also evaluated Mag/lev elevated rail and their are a number of serious complications from an engineering perspective that are not only "costly", but functionally questionable. There have been difficulties with icing on the rails and being able to keep them deiced in our climate. There are issues of crossing the Mississippi River and environmental consideration for this in our ecologically sensitive area and the need for them to use water for their solar electrical panels that do not produce very much electricity in our cloudy overcast Midwest state, thus relying heavily on electricity on our currently inadequate electric grid. Because of diverse elevations in various regions and geological difficulties (like sink holes), new right of way purchase and many other considerations, this is from my perspective not cost effective nor ready for construction and implementation at this time or perhaps at any time in the near future.
-Leon, Winona, MN
I wish to go on record as a Minnesotan living in south central Minnesota who supports establishing a commuter rail service in south central Minnesota. There are many residents in this area who commute to the Twin Cities for their employment. The condition of Minnesota's highways as it impacts driving in and around the Twin Cities with its burgeoning population is conducive to the increased incidents of road rage and severe stress placed on drivers, not to mention the constant delays and resulting job losses due to these delays because of traffic. We need a commuter rail line in south Central Minnesota connecting to the Twin Cities to ease this impossible burden.
-Joan, Mankato, MN
I moved to St. Peter, MN in 2001 because I thought that there was a chance that someday there would be rapid transit between Mankato and Mpls/ St. Paul. As our population ages there will be more citizens seeking the services of rail transportation between these cities. I hope these rail services become a reality for this area.
-Virginia, St. Peter, MN
It's critical that any project plans in advance to support higher speeds in the future. 110MPH is a good start, but for a brand-new project, now is our chance to get it right. Leave lots of room to grow. 200MPH should be on the roadmap.
MnDOT: We will consider several new alignments that would enable dedicated, true high-speed trains, and are looking at costs, challenges, and benefits (travel time, comfort, and convenience) of such services.
I would be very strongly supportive about high speed passenger service from the Twin Cities to Rochester and on to Chicago. It would be a great step in the right direction and an important part of a plan for future growth and energy efficiency.
-Richard, Rochester, MN
MnDOT: The State Rail Plan and the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative alternatives analysis are both studying Rochester alignments.
I think it is great that a High Speed Rail is being considered between the Twin Cities and Chicago. I especially like the fact that a station on the line could be in Rochester! It would be fantastic to travel to Chicago or the Twin Cities in high speed.
I feel this is a step in the right direction, and looking forward to the future. This would also be utilized by the people of Southeast Minnesota in a big way. Rochester would be a secondary transportation hub to the Twin Cities. I hope it all works out!
-Phillip, Rochester, MN
MnDOT: Rochester is obviously a very significant and growing regional trade center, and logically ought to be a part of any regional state rail system. The State Rail Plan seeks to define a possible viable system that would connect Minnesota’s major cities.
I am in favor of a passenger rail route from the Twin Cities to Rochester.
-James, Rosemount, MN
With Rochester being such a worldwide health care destination, it only makes sense to put Rochester on ANY high-speed rail route! We are one of the fastest growing cities in the country and we ARE THE economic engine in the region. Any high-speed rail plan should include Rochester and not just on the outskirts, it needs to connect to the downtown area people are trying to get to. A link to the Rochester Airport could help reduce congestion at the Minneapolis airport and provide a connection to the high speed line to air travel into the region as well. What more could you ask for??? Let's get this done!
-Scott, Rochester, MN
MnDOT: The team working on the State Rail Plan agrees with you on designing a system with good connections to other travel modes. Connecting to airports, especially MSP, allows seamless regional travel for long distance air travelers. Likewise, connections to city transit and intercity buses will be a necessary link for many travelers.
I am writing to urge you to approve a high-speed rail plan that places Rochester along a line to Chicago and beyond. Rochester is a key economic driver for the State of Minnesota as well as the surrounding region. Leaving Rochester out of the plan isn't prudent for economic growth for Minnesota and the upper Midwest. As the HWY 52 corridor between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Rochester continues to grow as does congestion and safety concerns. Between passengers seeking Rochester as a destination and locals commuting between the Twin Cities and Rochester (as well as vice versa) a rail plan that includes Rochester just makes sense.
Thank you and again urge your consideration of Rochester to be a city along the Chicago to Twin Cities corridor.
-Brian, Rochester, MN
I envision a modernized freight rail and passenger rail system which would connect Duluth to other points in both the state and the rest of the country. It is my understanding that freight rail is an efficient, environmentally friendly way to move goods. The same should be true for passenger rail.
In my own case, I would take the train to the Twin Cities for a variety of reasons – access to the airport, visits to friends, access to cultural opportunities and entertainment (theatre, sports, etc.).
Trains connect people in Europe, both within their respective nations and with neighboring countries. Why not here, too, connecting states and eventually all of North America, if trains are more efficient than other forms of transportation?
-Robert, Duluth, MN
MnDOT: The fuel and energy efficiency of rail is well documented. It is an interesting idea to consider international connections, as the Twin Cities and Winnipeg were once well connected by rail for many years.
Freight rail is vital to many of the businesses that are served by rail. Rail is greener than diesel trucks, and for every railcar, there are four fewer trucks congesting the public roads. Freight rail attracts industries that employ a higher number of workers bringing much needed tax base and spending dollars to rural communities. Rail does not cause public roadway deterioration issues.
MnDOT: The environmental advantages of rail and the diversion of freight tonnage off deteriorating roadways are two important points the State Rail Plan is including in the list of performance measures to evaluate.
Freight rail must be protected and enhanced. Freight rail pays its own way. Freight rail must be kept private (i.e., not nationalized).
Amtrak has never been economically viable; it has always relied on subsidy to exist. More passenger rail subsidies is another wrong answer to bring this country back to economic viability. I am against any government money spent on this passenger rail initiative. If passenger rail were economically feasible, private enterprise would have provided it.
-John, St. Cloud, MN
MnDOT: Our freight network is the envy of the world for its efficiency and self-sufficiency. All passenger modes are subsidized, our effort is to find if a certain level of passenger rail service fits in the total picture.