Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission
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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.

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May 22, 2015 
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REFLECTING ON THE PHILADELPHIA TRAIN ACCIDENT

The May 12 derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in Philadelphia is an unfortunate and tragic accident.  Our thoughts are with those who were injured and the families who lost loved ones. In the weeks and months ahead, authorities will release more information as to the cause of the derailment and how it could have been prevented.

 

Incidents like this can call into question the safety of high-speed rail. Speculation quickly fills in the void of facts and information. However, it's important to note that trains are rarely involved in accidents. According to a 2011 National Safety Council's* review of 10 years of transportation fatalities, for every mile traveled, car drivers and passengers are more than 10 times as likely to die in accidents as those traveling by passenger rail. Train travel is also safer than air travel. In addition, ongoing high-speed rail improvements are making an already safe mode of travel even safer by improving at-grade road and rail crossings through lights and gates, closures/consolidations, and grade separations.

 

The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission is a strong advocate for ever-advancing technologies that promise to make America's railways even safer. More information. 

 

*NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL INJURY FACTS 2011 EDITION

 

Janice Rettman
Chair, MNHSR Commission
SECOND AMTRAK TRAIN LOOKS PROMISING

A second daily round-trip Amtrak train between the Twin Cities and Chicago could begin operations in just a few years with an anticipated ridership of 155,000 annually, according to initial data from a draft feasibility study. The study, conducted by Amtrak in cooperation with freight rail operators and the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation, is nearly complete on the segment between Chicago and Saint Paul, and is currently looking at continuing service west of Union Depot.

 

Dan Krom, director of MnDOT's passenger rail office, attended the May 7 Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission meeting to provide an update on the feasibility study. A second daily train would offer more options to travelers in the corridor by providing better eastbound reliability and increased train frequency, among other benefits. If the second train is approved, stations would be at current Amtrak locations, and could be installed at Target Field, at the Northstar Commuter Rail station in Fridley, and/or in St. Cloud. 

 

At this time, MnDOT and WisDOT staff recommend moving forward with the next phase of study to fulfill environmental requirements and be eligible for federal funding.  

 



 

MNHSR AT UNION DEPOT "TRAIN DAY" 
Andru Peters, vice-chair of the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission, met with hundreds of train fans at Train Day at Union Depot in Saint Paul. Train Day, celebrating trains and train travel took place Saturday, May 9 with a variety of festivities. Railroad and train aficionados of all ages were treated to a fun and educational experience learning about the history and future of American train travel. 

 

Visitors got an up close and personal look at train equipment from Amtrak, the BNSF Railway, and the Minnesota Transportation Museum. The Union Depot also featured a special train photography exhibit and a diesel engine simulator.  
 

National Train Day was created by Amtrak in 2008 as a way to celebrate trains and the American passenger railway system. Since then, more than 300 communities across the country have paused to learn more about this great travel option. Beginning this year, Amtrak has expanded by celebrating Train Days across the country this summer, instead of a one day event.

 

Andru Peters chats with visitors to Train Day at Union Depot on May 9. 

 

MNHSR COMMUNITY VISITS

Jerry Miller, community liaison for Minnesota High-Speed Rail has been visiting community groups along the River Route to raise awareness of the benefits high-speed rail will provide the area. In April, Miller, along with Andru Peters, vice chair of MNHSR, spoke with the Red Wing Rotary Club. Earlier in May, Miller visited the La Crescent Chamber of Commerce. The presentations are designed to provide a short overview and history of the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission and initiative and then offer an opportunity for Q&A. 

 

During these visits, Miller shares an update on the second passenger train study, discusses the Union Depot (St. Paul) and metro route upgrades and grade crossing updates on the River Route, provides an overview on the various route offerings leading to the final Minnesota corridor selection, and answers questions concerning the ZIP rail (Rochester to Twin Cities). Miller also challenged the Red Wing Rotary audience to enlarge the scope of the current Red Wing depot to make it a multimodal transit hub for rail, bus, bikes, pedestrians, and water.       

 

Miller believes future success for high-speed passenger rail will largely be built by developing strategic alliances with communities along the River Route.   

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OTHER UPDATES ON HIGH-SPEED RAIL

ZIP Rail

The project Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is being expanded to include cities along the corridors, and a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is being formed to provide feedback on the Draft Tier 1 EIS.  Area residents, employers, travelers and others interested in the proposed high-speed passenger rail connection between Rochester and the Twin Cities have been encouraged to apply for membership on the Community Advisory Committee.

 

Northern Lights Express (NLX)

MnDOT has developed several alternative operating plans that adjust speed, round trips and schedule for the NLX project in order to identify the operating system that optimizes ridership, revenue and public benefits.  Steer, Davies Gleave is completing an initial assessment of ridership and Quandel is preparing operating and capital costs for these operating plans. Quandel is also preparing a rail corridor capacity analysis for each alternative to identify the capital improvements that may be necessary to ensure reliable passenger service over the BNSF freight tracks as an input to capital costs and benefits. Once initial assessments of ridership, cost and benefits are completed, MnDOT will select a single operating plan for further analysis.  Final ridership forecasts, cost estimates and the benefit cost analysis for the selected operating plan will be completed in June 2015, after which preparation of the Tier 2 Environmental Analysis will commence.

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