Trains For America

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If California towns balk at HSR, Minnesota’s can’t get enough

Anyone following the progress of the California High Speed Rail project in recent months is surely familiar with the whines and complaints of towns like Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Atherton. It’s a case study in NIMBYism, and a tedious obstacle to an important project for the environment and the economy.

But Californians, if this example of petty squabbling has damaged your view of American local government, take heart. Your municipal friends in the slightly less tropical locale of southern Minnesota are practically tearing each others eyes out trying to get the proposed Chicago-Twin Cities HSR line routed through their towns.

The most obvious option is to just follow Amtrak’s current line, stopping in Winona, Red Wing, and ultimately St. Paul. But Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic and Minnesota’s 3rd largest city (not a particularly amazing feat considering that St. Paul and Minneapolis basically count as one), is scrambling to get the line rerouted in its favor.

And Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota’s Republican governor and no great proponent of passenger rail in the past, seems to support this idea. From the Rochester Post-Bulletin:

“I think it is important, particularly when you have a city and a region that is this vitally and strategically important to the state of Minnesota that you be fully and fairly included in the possibility of high-speed rail,” Pawlenty said.

But one area lawmaker says the high-speed train has already left the station.

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Steve Murphy said a route along the Mississippi River is the federally-designated corridor for a high-speed rail line from Chicago to the Twin Cities. The Red Wing Democrat argues it makes no sense to abandon that route.

“For (the governor) to stick his nose in in the 11th hour in an area where he probably has little or no expertise I think is inappropriate,” Murphy said.

It’s all a bit of a fuss, and the indecision certainly isn’t going to help Minnesota get any of that federal rail stimulus money. But at least their heart is in the right place, right? If we’re going to have local government squabbling about the details of HSR, it can at least recognize the local and statewide economic importance of the plan.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail,

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August 2021