Gimme a ticket for a fast train, but to Winona or Rochester?

There’s been discussion about whether that proposed high-speed train from St. Paul to Chicago would swing though Rochester or Winona. Well, how about both? That’s a pitch coming from one state lawmaker, according to the Rochester Post Bulletin.

Rep. Andy Welti, DFL-Plainview, says maybe the train would not have to stop every time at both cities — rather it could vary stopping either in Rochester or Winona.

“Where the rail goes there is the potential for a couple of communities along the line to be served. It’s not a situation where you will have true winners and losers,” Welti said.

Supporters of the Mississippi River route have argued it makes more sense to get high-speed rail where there are existing railroad tracks. Amtrak’s Empire Builder line already runs along the river and could be upgraded, allowing the project to move along more quickly at less cost.

“I believe the most economical route is coming down the Mississippi River on the current rails, rather than building all new infrastructure,” said Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes, DFL-Winona.

Meanwhile, supporters of Rochester high-speed rail argue it only makes sense to include the Minnesota’s third-largest city when considering the state’s long-term transportation needs.

There’s some urgency because there are $8 billion in federal stimulus dollars available for rail.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 03/30/2009 - 12:37 pm.

    Having lived in Japan, the homeland of high-speed rail since 1964, I see no problem with having some runs stop in smaller cities.

    The east-west Shinkansen system has three classes of trains: the Nozomi, which stops only at the most major cities and runs the entire line; the Hikari, which stops only at the major cities but rarely runs the whole length of the system; and the Kodama, which runs for no more than half the length of the line and stops at smaller cities.

    I once translated a history of the Shinkansen and was amused to see that when it was first proposed, the critics sounded *exactly* like the anti-transit, anti-rail critics in this country: “Nobody will ride it.” “It’s too expensive.” “Highways are the wave of the future.” So our anti-transit crowd is at least 45 years behind the times.

  2. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 03/30/2009 - 12:39 pm.

    Rochester should have to accept freight rail before they get passenger rail. Carrying freight by rail instead of by truck is of more economomic benefit than carrying people by rail rather than by bus. It’s a matter of density and rolling friction. Passenger rail is mostly dead space.

  3. Submitted by Steven Liesch on 03/30/2009 - 01:28 pm.

    The problem with Rochester was the lack of dampening on the rails.With new high tech equipment,there is a problem with vibration.
    Look to the Mayo Clinics concerns.

  4. Submitted by Caroline Barazesh on 03/30/2009 - 06:00 pm.

    I’m from the UK and I used to work for a train company. It’s absolutely the best way to travel moderate distances between cities, especially when it is integrated with a bus system that can take you from your house to the station and from the station at your destination to the city center. In UK there are 2 different types of trains, the larger high speed intercity trains which run hourly at 125 miles an hour during some parts of the journey, and the commuter Sprinter trains which are smaller, slower, travel shorter distances, are more frequent and stop at more stations. The trains should stop at both cities, alternating between the two. As to the infrastructure – build it. If you build it, they will come. I wish a train service from Maple Grove to downtown Minneapolis would be considered next.

  5. Submitted by William Pappas on 03/30/2009 - 09:26 pm.

    Most members on the Transportation Committee become depressed when thinking of the amount of work to be done if the route were to go through Rochester. Simply condemning the land and buying it up are deal breakers in this time line. The existing route through Winona may be slightly less ideal but the project is literally ready to be built and therefore a prime candidate for funding. Rochester will have to be satisfied with a future spur. The tragedy is that our Governor, being opposed to rail, could have approved the studies of this route long ago. Now, with enlightened transportation policy finally being discussed and funded in Washington, Minnesota finds itself in catch-up mode and having to move more quickly than the Governor would like. Senator Kathy Saltzman, Woodbury, is right-on in advocating a quick decision to embrace the existing rail lines and right of way.

  6. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/31/2009 - 10:38 am.

    Rochester has excellent service by bus/van from the airport directly to the Mayo Clinic several times a day. This service could easily be provided from Union Depot as well, thus providing quick access to and from Rochester without have to build new rails.

    Winona Yes, after repairing and upgrading the rails.

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