Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Minneapolis rail hub

This one is loaded with local politics and, frankly, I can only presume this story represents a good decision. The Star Tribune reports.

Ramsey County rail officials approved a purchase agreement today for U.S. Postal Service property in downtown St. Paul that it sees as critical for developing transit in the eastern metro area.

Regional Rail Authority members, who also make up the County Board, voted 6-1 in favor of the agreement that would give the county the concourse behind the Union Depot, a parking structure and land currently used for parking. The purchase price is $49.6 million, but that would drop to $45.2 million if all payments were made by Dec. 31, 2010.

The Postal Service Board of Governors still needs to approve the purchase. It will discuss the deal at a December meeting.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

7 Responses

  1. Richard Boyum says:

    I’m writing this from 400 miles away from St. Paul…in Chicago so I am eager to be corrected if I am wrong. I am a frequent train rider to the Twin Cities. The current Midway Amtrak depot is in an industrial area midway between Minneapolis and St. Paul. There is no public transportation to either city from the station. Earlier this year a cab driver whose cab I managed to share a ride in told me that there were exactly four cabs on the street in St. Paul at that time (10:30 PM/an on time arrival for the train) on that night. It is my understanding that this purchase would enable the Amtrak station to be in downtown St. Paul.

  2. Alex B says:

    As a former Minneapolitan, yes, that is correct. The current station is in the ‘Midway’ district, a largely industrial area straddling Minneapolis and St. Paul, sandwiched between the BNSF and CP mainlines through the Twin Cities. There are no easy connections to mass transit, and certainly nothing worth note within walking distance.

    Moving to the St. Paul Union Depot would simply move the station further east on the current line, but that would be right in the heart of Downtown St. Paul, also with a future mass transit connection to the Central Corridor light rail line, with service to downtown Minneapolis.

    The headhouse at Union Depot has been redeveloped with restaurants, offices and shops. This would be the first move in purchasing the yard areas to restore train service, eventually reconnecting the concourses to the existing headhouse and city beyond.

  3. Joe C says:

    Ahem, as a former St. Paulite, I have to correct the headline. The rail hub would not be in Minneapolis but St. Paul – a completely separate and autonomous city. But actually I believe that Minneapolis is planning its own downtown rail station in conjunction with the Northstar commuter service, also to be served by light rail. I’m not sure if Amtrak would use it but it would make sense to serve both downtowns – which are about 10 miles apart.

  4. Scott Dier says:

    I do not believe it would be possible for Amtrak to service the multi modal station in Minneapolis. That station is on the south side of the river, as far as I know the empire builder stays on the north side and would need to go over Nicollet Island to get to the station (and back). I also do not know if the station for Northstar will be compatible length and height wise for the amtrak trains offhand.

    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=44.983074,-93.261137&spn=0.027501,0.080252&z=14&om=1

  5. Well perhaps the little detour over the river to serve the Minneapolis downtown station is worth it? Or perhaps a station should be constructed on the north side of the river but closer to downtown?

  6. Tom L says:

    First: Midway station is not *well* served by public transit by any means, but it’s less than 1000 feet to the nearest station on the 16 bus line, which serves both downtowns with a 10-minute headway. Of course, from midway on the 16 it’s a VERY long ride to either downtown. A little bit longer walk to the Prior Ave bus stop for the 50 will get you to either downtown in about 20 minutes. Not very convenient, I know. I don’t really understand why Metro Transit can’t just run a different 50 route between 6:30 and 7:30 am, and 10:30 to 11:30 PM, that loops off University to service the Amtrak station. It would add maybe 3-5 minutes to the route, tops.

    Second: the current MSP layover at Midway is a major stop for the train – it spends about an hour at Midway as it gets equipped for the long western run over the mountains. It’s true that Minneapolis Multi-Modal would be a terminal stop – meaning the train would have to back out and turn around – but if all the things currently done at Midway could be accommodated there, then the extra five minutes required to shuffle the train in and out wouldn’t really matter.

    Amtrak is skeptical whether Saint Paul Union Depot would provide resources for all the yard work that’s currently done at Midway; it seems even *less* likely that this work could be accommodated at Mpls Multi-Modal; but if it could, it would be a definite win.

  7. robbie says:

    Tom makes a very good point here. A slightly longer than normal stop at St. Paul Union Depot would make sense. Then a layover in Minneapolis at the multi-modal about the same amount of time at midway would make good sense too given the increased boardings at Minneapolis, a town of larger population. This is all assuming the multi-modal can fit the massive Empire Builder. If not, a more expensive, yet really cool solution would be to build a seperate station or so on the other side of the river on the wye.

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