Minnesota gets on board for rail plan

Monday, January 04, 2010

From an article by Bob Von Sternberg in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:
The much-touted high-speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Chicago reached an important milestone Thursday with the release of Minnesota's final statewide rail plan.

The plan, released by state transportation officials, doesn't resolve the knottiest political hurdle about the rail line: Its route through southeastern Minnesota.

It does, however, put the state on record supporting a project that could cost several billion dollars.

According to the plan, freight and passenger rail 20-year capital costs could range from $6.2 billion, with nearly two-thirds of that provided by federal, state and local government. The Twin Cities-Chicago line is expected to top $1 billion alone.

The plan was ordered last year by the state Legislature, well before a scramble erupted in many states to push their own high-speed rail plans. That was triggered by the infusion of $8 billion in federal stimulus money specifically earmarked for such rail lines nationwide.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, previously not a big advocate of high- speed rail, endorsed the Twin Cities-Chicago route last spring.

The plan recommends that both St. Paul and Minneapolis would have stops on the line.

But the transportation department, for now, hasn't endorse a route through southeastern Minnesota that has pitted local officials against each other