High speed train to Chicago could run through HastingsA state rail and transit plan identifies the Mississippi River corridor – which travels through Hastings – as the best route for a future high-speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Chicago.
By: Keith Grauman, The Hastings Star-Gazette
A state rail and transit plan identifies the Mississippi River corridor – which travels through Hastings – as the best route for a future high-speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Chicago.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation began working on the plan after the state legislature in 2008 mandated that MnDOT develop a comprehensive statewide freight and passenger rail plan.
Parts of the Mississippi River rail corridor, which reaches from St. Paul, through Hastings, Red Wing, Winona, Minn., into Wisconsin and then onto Chicago, need to be upgraded to handle high-speed trains, and that project is eligible for some federal and state funding.
“Over 90 percent of the track already reaches over 60 miles per hour or more, so making that relatively minimal investment to get up to 100 or 110 miles per hour makes the most economic sense,” said Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL–Cottage Grove in a recent press release.
The upgrading of the corridor is identified as a “Tier 1” project by MnDOT, which makes it eligible for federal funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. “Tier 1” projects must be capital improvements that have passed a project-level environmental review in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and are ready to be implemented.
The plan also identifies a number of commuter rail projects that could increase transit options in the metro area and outlying areas, one of which being the Red Rock commuter rail line, which is planned to run between St. Paul and Hastings.
An investment in the river rail corridor will not only increase freight capacity, but will also help the Red Rock plan along as upgrades are made to the rail line, according to Sieben.
The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a cooperative, multi-agency group working on rail projects throughout the Midwest, estimates that for every dollar invested in upgrading the river corridor, four dollars in economic activity are generated.
“Enhancing Minnesota’s rail system will not only improve the movement of goods and people, but will create immediate jobs and future economic opportunities,” Sieben said.
After a 30-day public comment period on the MnDOT rail plan, it will be adopted into the state’s full transportation plan. The comprehensive data and unified direction in the plan will then be used to apply for and secure funding for the upgrades to the rail system.