Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission
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In the News
Twin Cities Passenger Rail Climbs Back on Track

Slow work on fast trains: Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission convenes on rail issues

High-Speed Rail Commission seeks state funds for second train
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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, 2017

Thank you for your interest in Minnesota High-Speed Rail. Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues who may be interested in high-speed rail news.
Minnesota High-Speed Rail 2016 Year in Review
Each year we review the previous year's accomplishments and look forward to continuous progress on expanding passenger rail in the coming year. Below are the high points - take a look!
Message from the Commission
The beautiful Mississippi River valley in southeastern Minnesota is a bustling transportation corridor.
Thousands of cars and trucks, dozens of trains, and (in summertime) many barges are moving people and goods daily through the region. 

The Minnesota High-Speed Rail (MNHSR) Commission is working on ways to improve the safety and efficiency of the travel experience for those coming to the River Route as well as for those travelling through it. And the first step - adding a second daily round trip passenger train - could be up and running in just a few years, with your help.

We're asking you to get involved. Please contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about expanded passenger rail options. Read more in this newsletter, or visit our website.
Legislative Update
The most important work to be accomplished by the  Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission in 2017 may be its advocacy for state funding for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's (MnDOT) Passenger Rail Office. Without state funding, MnDOT, our project lead on the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) Second Train, won't be able to complete phase two of planning. 
The commission unanimously approved a resolution at its January meeting in support of a $23 million general obligation bonding request for passenger rail service across the state. Non-federal funding is needed to further develop the passenger rail system identified in MnDOT's 2015 State Rail Plan, which includes the TCMC Second Train, the Northern Lights Express, and emerging corridors. 

The commission also approved a resolution supporting a $1 million state funding request for rail improvements in Saint Paul.
TCMC Second Train Update
Planning for a second Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago daily round trip passenger train began in mid-2016 after a coalition of funding partners was assembled to pay for the first phase of work, expected to be completed in 2017. As the project lead, MnDOT held informational meetings with local officials in each city with a proposed station, and began work on an environmental assessment and a service schedule analysis.

In 2017, the purpose and need statement will be completed, as well as, the environmental and service schedule work. A capital cost report will also be completed for train set(s) and any infrastructure improvements to track and stations that may be necessary.

Learn more here
Tier 1 EIS Update 
The MNHSR Commission advocates for 6-8 daily round trip passenger trains between the Twin Cities and Chicago. The Minnesota Department of Transportation began work in 2012 on a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 340 mile Twin Cities to Milwaukee portion of the corridor. This identifies environmental impacts and mitigation along the corridor along with specific areas in need of additional analysis. Work on this study has slowed to concentrate on the Second Train Environmental Analysis.
Commission Update
The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission welcomed a new member in 2016, the La Crosse Area Planning Committee. It continued to provide staff input to MnDOT as it plans TCMC Second Train service. And it continued providing information about the benefits of expanded passenger rail to key stakeholders, including the legislature, as well as, the general public.

The commission again elected Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman to serve as chair, a post she has
held since 2015. She is excited to continue efforts to expand passenger rail in Minnesota and to continue the work that the commission has taken on so far.

The vice chair is Hastings City Council Member Mark Vaughan. Mark has been on the city council since 2014 and has worked for over 20 years for the city of Eagan in the parks and recreation department. He also volunteers on the Hastings Parks and Recreation Commission, Hastings Planning Commission, and the Hastings Charter Commission.

The commission thanks Andru Peters, former vice chair, for his years of service. Andru will continue to serve as a community liaison for the commission. 
Community Liaison Update 
Former Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission Chairs Jerry Miller and Bill Spitzer, and former Vice Chair Andru Peters continue to serve as liaisons to the River Route community. They have done presentations all along the route and are currently focusing on providing information to community leaders to build support for investments in the expansion of passenger rail.

If you or your organization would like more information about the TCMC Second Train or Minnesota High-Speed Rail, please contact us at info@mnhighspeedrail.com.
Spotlight on Spotlights
In 2016, the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission made it a point to help people better get to know the communities that make up the route and the commission and the people who represent them.

Our Member Spotlight highlighted a number of the elected officials that make up the commission. They told us why they chose public service and why they are advocates for passenger rail. The River Route Spotlight focused on the communities that make up both the River Route and the MNHSR Commission by looking at the history, events, and some fun facts about these great cities and counties.

Keep an eye out for more spotlights in 2017 and catch up on those you may have missed on the Member Spotlight and River Route Spotlight.
Empire Builder Update
Amtrak reported strong financial results for fiscal year 2016 including a revenue record of $2.14 billion made possible by a record 31.3 million passengers. Revenue is up $12 million and ridership is up nearly 400,000 from the previous fiscal year.

Among those impressive results is news that ridership on the Empire Builder is up 3.7 percent. The Empire Builder averages approximately 104,000 passengers per year between the Twin Cities and Chicago. 

Read more about the strong FY16 financial report 
OneRail Coalition Safety Report
OneRail is a group made up of a variety of people including rail owners, operators, suppliers, employees, and advocates who advocate for passenger and freight rail. OneRail released a safety report in 2016 that includes lots of interesting statistics and determines that increasing market share for rail by getting more goods and people onto trains would save lives.

Some safety trends over the past 10 years:
31% Decline in train accident rates
33% Decline in derailment rates
23% Decline in grade-crossing incidents
72% Decline in release of hazardous materials
17% Decline in employee casualty rates

Read the full report here.
High-Speed Rail Across MN
Northern Lights Express: The higher-speed rail connection between the Twin Cities and Duluth is continuing to be pursued with a recent finding that the impact on crossings will be minimal. The route goes from Target Field in Minneapolis and ends at the Depot in Duluth with planned stops in Coon Rapids-Foley Blvd, Cambridge, Hinckley, and Superior, Wisc.

Read More about the crossing impact and keep up with NLX

Twin Cities to Rochester: After MnDOT decided to stop studying the Zip Rail project between the Twin Cities and Rochester, a private group called North American High-Speed Rail Group announced plans to build a privately funded connection along the same route. After meeting with Chinese investors in 2016, not much is known about the project. NAHSR has reorganized as the Minnesota Corridor Project. The project has gotten pushback from residents and legislators along the route. The company had announced intentions to connect to Chicago eventually.

MnDOT's 2015 Draft State Rail Plan envisions MNHSR plus inter-city passenger rail connecting the Twin Cities with Duluth, St. Cloud, Willmar, Mankato, Albert Lea and Eau Claire. Read more
High-Speed Rail Across the US and the World
It's true that high-speed rail has been slow to arrive in the United States. There are a few projects under construction now and several more being studied as we move into a new year. Amtrak is also introducing new high-speed trains to the Acela Express route in the Northeast, that have potential for higher speeds with some track improvements.

CItylab has a great article about how faster rail service is coming to America... Slowly.

Here is a link to a map of the USHSR's vision.

Here is a round-up of a few projects:

Amtrak's New High-Speed Trains: Amtrak is stepping into the future with new high-speed trains that will be used starting in 2021. The trains are part of the $2.45 billion investment in the Northeast Corridor that also includes station revitalization and track improvements. Chicago to St. Louis: The higher-speed rail connection between Chicago and St. Louis is nearing completion with track improvements along that corridor that will allow speeds up to 110 mph. Stations are being built and crossings are being upgraded with safety as the number one priority.  All Aboard Florida: Plans to connect major tourism destinations in Florida are moving forward with trains ready for testing. The service between Miami and West Palm Beach is scheduled to begin in 2017 with trains traveling at speeds up to 70 mph. The service will eventually feature a northern leg that will connect to Cocoa Beach and Orlando.
Read more

California High Speed Rail:
Construction is continuing in California as the ambitious project aims to connect major cities in the nation's first federally funded high-speed rail line. Funding issues and route issues continue, but the project has made a deal with Siemens to purchase trains made in the U.S. Texas:  Texas Central Partners, the company working towards building a privately-funded high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston is restructuring with a new CEO and slowing the planning process. Atlanta to Chattanooga: Three possible routes have been identified by Tennessee and Georgia to connect Atlanta and Chattanooga. The proposed line is estimated to handle an expected 11,725 daily riders and complete an end to end trip in 88 minutes at speeds up to 180 mph.
China expanding HSR footprint: China's CCRC corporation is the world's largest supplier of rail transit systems and is developing a new maglev train that is expected to be complete by 2020. The company is also developing projects across Europe and in Australia. High-speed rail in Africa
The high-speed rail network connecting Tangier with Casablanca in Morocco has been testing new trains that can run at speeds of 200 miles per hour. With ridership goals of six million passengers a year after three years of commercial operation, there are high hopes for this line. Malaysia and Singapore: An agreement has been signed to build a high-speed railway between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore that would cut the trip time from four hours by car to just 90 minutes by train by 2026.
Thank you!
Learn more about the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission at our website, or Like us on Facebook.

Thank you for your interest in High-Speed Rail!