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.

 More Fast Facts and FAQs
March 8, 2016

Hello from the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission. We are excited to present our annual report and even more excited to make progress on high-speed rail in Minnesota. Please read on for the annual report.
 The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission held its annual organizational meeting in January. Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman will continue to serve as the  commission's chairperson, and Lake City Councilmember Andru Peters will continue to serve as vice-chair. Two new representatives were welcomed to the commission: Commissioner Cheryl Key, Wabasha County; and Councilmember Jane Prince, city of Saint Paul.

New Member
The La Crosse Area Planning Committee accepted the MNSHR Commission's invitation to join the Commission as a voting financial partner. The Committee has been an ex-officio, non-voting member since the Commission's inception. Admission to the commission requires approval of a resolution by each of the organization's that belong to the Commission. The process is expected to be completed in May.
A second daily round trip passenger train between the Twin Cities and Chicago has taken another step toward reality as funding partners have stepped forward to fund Phase 1 of an environmental assessment. A coalition of funding partners has committed to providing more than $650,000.  The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will provide $300,000, as will the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority. The Minnesota High Speed Rail Commission committed $50,000 and the La Crosse Area Planning Committee will provide $10,000. The Phase 1 work includes rail traffic controller modelling to identify needed infrastructure improvements, development of final recommended schedules and preparation of concept plans.  This work is expected to take approximately 18 months to complete. The Minnesota Department of Transportation will be the lead agency.
Photo courtesy of Amtrak
The Minnesota Department of Transportation, in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration is in the process of preparing a Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Impact Statement for improved passenger rail service from the Twin Cities to Milwaukee. (The Milwaukee to Chicago segment is being studied by another entity.) The Tier 1 EIS document will evaluate one or more service scenarios of the reasonable and feasible passenger rail alternative and a no build alternative.

The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission approved a resolution at its January meeting supporting 2016 Minnesota passenger rail legislative initiatives as outlined by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). MnDOT is requesting $21 million in bonds for passenger rail in several Minnesota corridors, including the River Route. MnDOT is also requesting a sustainable, dedicated fund for passenger rail project oversight.

Technical work continues for high-speed rail along the Mississippi River Route. Highlights include a positive result from the Amtrak Second Train Study, the continuation of the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement, and presentations by Minnesota High-Speed Rail Community Liaisons.
Second Train Study
Amtrak, Minnesota and Wisconsin conducted a feasibility study looking at the possibility of adding a second daily round trip passenger train between the Twin Cities and Chicago. The study found that the estimated annual ridership on the additional daily train would be about 155,000, more than the current Empire Builder ridership of approximately 104,000.
The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission is excited that the study confirms what we already believe, that additional passenger rail between the Twin Cities and Chicago makes sense.

Community Liaison Report
Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission Vice-Chair Andru Peters and Community Liaison Jerry Miller gave presentations to various Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce along the River Route in 2015.  Minnesota High-Speed Rail was also present at the Train Day event at Union Depot in St. Paul where Andru Peters talked to more than 300 visitors about the project. Government officials and community leaders attended the presentations and the speakers advocated for high-speed rail and adding a second train between the Twin Cities and Chicago.
Andru Peters left and Jerry Miller in Red Wing.

In 2016, the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission will be expanding community liaison efforts with a speaker's bureau consisting of Jerry Miller, Andru Peters and former commission chair Bill Spitzer. The speakers will aim to appear at community group meetings along the River Route and to represent Minnesota High-Speed Rail at a variety of organizations and events.
If your organization would like a presentation, please send us an email at [email protected].

Empire Builder Updates
As Amtrak looks into adding a second daily train between  the Twin Cities and Chicago, the Empire Builder is still facing challenges. Ridership numbers have seen a decline and Amtrak says that there is still work to be done to reduce delays and improve reliability. Track improvements are being made and fewer North Dakota oil trains may help.
Many still believe that Empire Builder has great potential as it is still Amtrak's strongest-performing single train nationally.
High-Speed Rail Across Minnesota

Minnesota Department of Transportation has the draft final plan of the 2015 State Rail Plan including information on high-speed rail and adding a second train in the River Route.
2015 State Rail Plan

The Northern Lights Express, the proposed passenger rail line between Minneapolis and Duluth has announced a reduction in speed and budget, changing the scope of the plan.

 The proposed high-speed rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities known as Zip Rail has been halted for now, with MnDOT and Olmsted County calling for a pause.

In a separate proposal for high-speed rail from Rochester to the Twin Cities, the North American High Speed Rail Group is seeking a preliminary study to build an elevated high-speed rail line generally along Highway 52. This private group hopes to invest in high-speed rail projects around the country.
Rail construction at Union Depot
Track improvements are being made across Minnesota with double tracking hoping to ease train congestion and help improve both freight and passenger rail capabilities. The St. Cloud Times highlighted improvements between Becker and Big Lake.

  High-Speed Rail Across the US and the World
High-speed rail continues to be a popular investment worldwide and proves to be the best form of transportation in country after country starting more than 50 years ago in Japan. Robust high-speed rail networks are in operation in more than 20 countries (including the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan). HSR is under construction in more than 10 countries (including China, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France, and Italy); and in development in another 14 countries (including Qatar, Morocco, Russia, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, India, Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil).  Companies from countries like Japan and China are aiming to expand high-speed rail technologies to more countries and corridors around the world.

Among many projects, high-speed rail projects moved forward around the United States including Texas, California, Florida, and Illinois.

Construction on the longest high-speed rail line in the U.S. continues in California with concrete being poured and plans moving forward to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles with trains traveling over 200 miles per hour by 2029.

A privately funded project in Florida is moving forward to connect Miami and Orlando with part of the route looking to open in 2017 and trains traveling between 79 and 125 miles per hour, providing a travel alternative connecting very popular tourist destinations.

Another privately funded project is Texas Central that will connect Houston and Dallas in less than 90 minutes. It is currently studying corridors.

Chicago is taking steps to expand as a rail hub with higher-speed rail projects underway. Infrastructure improvements are underway between Chicago and St. Louis to reduce travel time by more than an hour.
Upgrades are also being made to tracks between Chicago and Detroit to increase speeds up to 110 miles per hour and reduce travel time by more than an hour.  
Click here to learn more about high-speed rail across the US.
Thank you!
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Thank you for your interest in High-Speed Rail!