Talks begin on high-speed rail linking Twin Cities, Rochester

9:48 AM, Jun 4, 2013   |    comments
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ROCHESTER, Minn. -- The Minnesota Department of Transportation and Olmsted County leaders have gone public with their proposal to build a high speed rail line between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Rochester.

Project managers are just beginning a nearly 2-year feasibility study. Seven counties, including Hennepin and Ramsey, are included in the project.

"There will be a new line constructed," Mn/DOT Project Manager Praveena Pidaparthi said, explaining that there is no existing line to run on.

The corridor connects the two parts of the state near Highway 52. The funding equation is still very much up in the air.

"Eighty percent of the money you can figure federal and then state bonding," Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown noted.

Brown says a one-way trip would run about 40 or 45 minutes and cost somewhere in the $30 range. He also anticipates a high-volume of ridership.

"Right now Mayo runs 4 to 6 buses from the Mall of America every day to bring employees down," he added.

"A lot of people go back and forth," John Stalberger said shortly after returning to Rochester following a bus trip from Minneapolis.

Stalberger visits family in the Twin Cities once a month. He loves the bus and he loves the idea of the rails.

"I haven't really heard anything about it, but if I see it, I would use it," he said enthusiastically.

Construction could be a half a dozen years away and operation might be 10 to 15 years away.

"The question is; is it going to save the time and the cost compared to the way we travel now?" Douglas Resident Dan Crandall said following the public meeting.

"We're going to be paying a lot and Olmsted County is going to be on the hook for a lot and I really hope people go through the numbers," George Rivest added.

They won't zip through the process. It could take a lot to make this rail a reality. Meetings in the Twin Cities metro and Cannon Falls are planned for the next two days.

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