According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune among other MN sources, county and city officials along the Burlington North Santa Fe Railway line from Minneapolis to Duluth are optimistic about a planned high-speed line between the cities. First off, it’s worth noting that this route would be only moderate HSR (we need to standardize these terms, don’t we?): 110mph to 150mph. It’s enough to make it competitive with driving at least. The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance has been campaigning hard for the line in the past year, and it’s hoping that the $450 million cost of upgrading the line to accommodate passenger rail will largely get picked up by the feds:
The cost of the proposed passenger rail line from Minneapolis to Duluth will likely exceed a half billion dollars — $100 million more than was projected earlier this year — with no guarantee that federal funding will cover 80 percent of the project, as local officials hope.
That $450 million estimate includes equipment and the costs of safety and rail improvements, Manzoline said. But it does not include maintenance fees to Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns the desired track, or operating costs, he said. Those costs are likely to run into the tens of millions.
But according to a Minnesota Public Radio article in February, the Alliance aims to have the line be self sustaining because of its high speeds, stop near the Grand Casino in Hinckley, and connection to Amtrak service to Chicago and the West Coast.
As a MN resident (ish), I’d love to see more passenger rail in the state, and it would be great if the Alliance could pull this off. It would be a great compliment to the coming high-speed improvements to the Twin Cities – Chicago route as part of the Midwest HSR plan. But the state is being extremely tight with transportation money in light of a budget shortfall and the cost of repairing bridges after the 35W collapse. And as we’ve all seen, the amount of money the federal government is going to allocate for rail improvements is pretty ambiguous at the moment. And eight trains a day? The Empire Builder only stops in the Twin Cities twice per day.
I’d love for someone close to or familiar with the project address my doubts. North/south passenger rail would be a wonderful thing for Minnesota.