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High-speed rail advocates see moral victory but no funding from Legislature

The Minnesota Legislature didn't approve funding to support high-speed rail between the Twin Cities and Chicago, but supporters say they got a small moral victory at the Capitol.

Reports the the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission:

Governor Mark Dayton’s "unsession" bill had a positive impact for Minnesota High-Speed Rail. The unsession bill removed old, outdated laws from the state's statutes, and updated others. One law was updated to exempt passenger rail from redundant design review processes by the state Legislature.

But a big chunk of hoped-for money didn't come through, the group reports:

  • The proposal: $10 million bond funding request for engineering and construction improvements identified in the East Metro Rail Capacity Study and a $27 million bonding request for intercity passenger rail projects. Outcome: No funding was included in the legislature’s bonding bill.
  • The proposal: Reallocation of revenues from the state general property tax on property owned by railroads to create a sustainable fund for passenger rail initiatives. Outcome: Funding was not approved. Governor Dayton has deferred any proposal until he puts together a comprehensive funding package during a future legislative session.

The high-speed rail proposal calls for a 417-mile route between St. Paul and Chicago. An alternative is a 340-mile corridor connecting the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. There'd then be a connection between Milwaukee and Chicago.

The commission says the cost to upgrade tracks on the Milwaukee route is estimated at $7.1 million per mile, or $2.4 billion.

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