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MNHSR Fast Facts
The construction cost of High-Speed Rail is estimated at $7.1 million per mile from St. Paul to Milwaukee compared to $12.2 million per mile to add a lane of highway in each direction between St. Paul and Milwaukee.

 More Fast Facts and FAQs
February 7, 2014

Greetings! Minnesota High-Speed Rail's February 2014 E-news update replaces our annual report. Please forward this newsletter to friends who may be interested in high-speed rail news.

Amtrak leases Union Depot space

Rail construction at Union Depot It's not here yet, but it's comin' round the bend. Amtrak's Empire Builder is expected to begin service to the historic Union Depot in St. Paul in the spring of 2014. The Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority recently approved a 20-year lease with Amtrak which will use a portion of the depot for passenger ticketing, baggage handling, VIP lounge, office and staff areas. It will pay the county approximately $144,000 a year in rent.

Read more about overcoming construction and scheduling challenges, how Minnesota High-Speed Rail fits in, and how Union Depot is becoming a transportation hub.  

Read more

TAC starts work on MNHSR 
Technical Advisory Committee
In an effort to increase communication and smooth the planning process, a Technical Advisory Committee has been formed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the Minnesota High-Speed Rail project. The committee's purpose is to share information on project progress and local needs with key local government planning staff during the study, and to provide another channel of communication between MnDOT and local elected officials. The group will meet every 6-8 weeks, with the next meeting in late February or early March to review progress on train capacity modeling.
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High-speed rail study
The environmental study on the upgrade of passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Chicago has been expanded to include a study of alternatives west of St. Paul. The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission is advocating for service expansion from one daily roundtrip at a top speed of 79 miles per hour to six to eight daily roundtrips at 110 miles per hour.

As part of a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Study, MnDOT is conducting a feasibility study of three alternative alignments between Union Depot and Target Field station in Minneapolis. The study is a necessary component to meet Federal Railroad Administration requirements and qualify for federal funding. 

"Second train" study
With ridership steadily increasing on the Empire Builder line, Amtrak is studying the feasibility of adding a second daily round-trip passenger train between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Results had been expected in 2013, but Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) Railroad Operations Modeling, simulation software used to determine ways to add capacity to a railroad network, has taken longer than expected. The work has been complicated by increased freight traffic on the corridor due to oil production in North Dakota. In addition, the study is determining the Twin Cities terminus. Service could terminate at Union Depot, Target Field station, the Fridley Northstar Commuter Rail station, or St. Cloud. The modeling report is expected by the end of January 2014 with feasibility study results expected this spring. 

High-speed rail legislative priorities set
During the 2014 legislative session, the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission will advocate for state bond funds, a reallocation of revenues to the state's passenger rail office and a policy change to the approval process for heavy rail projects. Specific initiatives include:
  • $10 million bonding request for engineering and construction improvements identified in the East Metro Rail Capacity Study;
  • $27 million bonding request for intercity passenger rail projects;
  • Reallocation of revenues from the state general property tax on property owned by railroads to create a sustainable fund for passenger rail initiatives, and;
  • An exemption for freight, commuter and passenger rail projects from redundant review processes by the legislature and state.
Commission names officers
St. Charles Mayor Bill Spitzer was re-elected as Chair of the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission and Wabasha County Commissioner Rich Hall was re-elected as the Vice Chair. Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman will be the Commission's member on the Minnesota Passenger Rail Forum and Lake City Councilmember Andru Peters will be the alternate. Jerry Miller, former Mayor of Winona and former chair of the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission, will serve as the commission's community liaison in 2014. 
2013: A year of progress for high-speed rail in Minnesota...
NLX: Northern Lights Express, planned for Minneapolis to Duluth, is in the midst of preliminary engineering work after the Federal Railroad Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on the Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Assessment in September. 

Zip Rail: This proposed project would connect Rochester with the Twin Cities. Three public meetings were held along the project corridor in June to introduce the project, collect comments and feedback on initial alternatives, and to satisfy federal scoping requirements. 

...And in the U.S.
Illinois: The final phase of Illinois' more than $1.6 billion venture into high-speed rail began in October south of Springfield on a line between Chicago and St. Louis, Missouri.

Florida: The country's first privately owned, operated and maintained intercity passenger rail system spent the summer and fall buying property for stations along the line between Orlando and Miami, Fla.

California: The nation's first true high-speed rail project has been slowed by court decisions that block the California High-Speed Rail Authority from voter approved bond funds until it fixes its funding plan.
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