Commentary: Region poised for arrival of high speed railThe hard work of the Goodhue County Railroad Authority, Red Rock Corridor Committee and Minnesota High Speed Commission has been able to keep the Chicago-Winona-Red Wing-St. Paul as part of the high speed rail route known as the “River Route."
By: Ron Allen, The Republican Eagle
The hard work of the Goodhue County Railroad Authority, Red Rock Corridor Committee and Minnesota High Speed Commission has been able to keep the Chicago-Winona-Red Wing-St. Paul as part of the high speed rail route known as the “River Route."
The scenic Mississippi River Route last year was determined to be the “preferred path” by the Minnesota Department of Transportation for future high-speed rail service from St. Paul to Chicago. Red Wing will keep its current stop on this route which is a victory for the city and Goodhue County.
There have been several other developments in the passenger railroad service in recent months.
In November 2012, the grand opening for the St. Paul Union Station took place after being closed for 40 years. Some $240 million state and federal dollars were used to renovate the St. Paul Union Station into a multimodal transportation hub. This hub will be the central point for bus, taxi, light rail, commuter and high speed rail service into Minnesota and around the metro area.
The Jefferson Bus line is now operating out of the St. Paul Union Station. The Jefferson Bus Line has terminals in Duluth, St. Paul, Green Bay and throughout the Midwest.
In the near future, several important events will take place to advance passenger rail service.
In the summer of 2013, the Amtrak National Rail Service will once again use the St. Paul Union Station as its main terminal in Minnesota.
In 2014, the light rail system known as the Central Corridor Line will operate a rail station in front of St. Paul Union Station. The Central Corridor Light Rail Line will link the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis together. In Minneapolis, the Central Corridor will meet the Hiawatha Light Rail Line to allow passengers to travel to the MSP International Airport, VA Hospital or Mall of America.
Once all of these systems are operating, the Red Rock Corridor Committee will continue advocating for commuter trains to operate from Hastings to Cottage Grove to St. Paul Union Station and on to Minneapolis. This corridor is a 30-mile link which runs parallel to Highway 61 and Interstate 94.
There have been on-going discussions to extend the Red Rock Corridor Commuter Train Service to Red Wing with a possible new commuter station as Prairie Island. The Red Rock Corridor Committee has been working for 20 years to develop this commute service for our region. This committee was an early supporter of the High-Speed River Route. Since the River Route has become the preferred route, major upgrades to the existing rail line can take place without major funding from local partners along this route.
The commuter trains running from Red Wing to the St. Paul Union Station (four to five times per day) and High-Speed Rail service is a future dream of many. Both of these services will expand opportunities for business people, families and senior citizens wanting to travel to destinations within and outside of the scenic Mississippi River Route.
With the River Route as the preferred high speed rail route, the opening of Union Station, the arrival of Amtrak to Union Station and the future Central Corridor operating in 2014 has moved the dream of commuter and high-speed rail service to Red Wing one step closer to reality.
Ron Allen is Goodhue County’s ex-officio member of the Red Rock Corridor Commission.