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High-speed rail may greatly impact small river towns

According to MnDOT, almost 10 million trips are taken annually from the Twin Cities and Chicago. The high-speed rail would run alongside the already existing Amtrak. (photo courtesy of / 2
While the high-speed rail will start in the Twin Cities and end in Chicago, the river route along the way will feature stops including Red Wing and Winona.2 / 2

Think of the stress behind planning a trip. Now, think of it without having to worry about gridlock, road construction, or long security lines. Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission is working toward just that by preparing the plan for a fast route from the Twin Cities to Chicago.

With the existing Amtrak train, this daily train will run at a different time.

The American Public Transportation Association reports 67 percent of Americans would likely use high-speed trains if given the access. The most of any reported group are millennials and young adults, with 76 percent saying they are the most excited for rail. Out of those aged 45-64, 68 percent say they would use it, and 52 percent of those aged 64 and older say they would utilize it as well.

Paul Drotos, Goodhue County commissioner, serves on the high-speed rail board for the area. His work includes attending meetings with other commissioners to advocate and keep the public informed on the latest updates for the train.

"In plain English, I'm a cheerleader," Drotos said about his role with the project. "I think the benefit to Goodhue County is to increase tourism and visibility for river towns. The fact that people stop here puts us on the map and I think once you get on people's mindset, that's a good thing."

The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission is looking to reinvent the traditional transportation from the two metropolitan areas. Americans reported taking 10.8 billion public transportation trips last year, the highest ridership seen in 58 years.

From the Union Depot in St. Paul through river towns Red Wing and Winona, the train would travel through the midwest to Chicago and provide a fast, convenient option for travelers, as well as an alternative to car or plane.

"The amount of trips are ten million a year (by flight, car, etc.). This project will handle a daily round trip of 155,000 additional annual trips from the cities to the Milwaukee Chicago line," Drotos said.

With the rail being used by all ages, it could potentially help eliminate waste and provide jobs by improving existing tracks to help better serve passengers and freight rail traffic, according to the APTA. With a 417-mile trek, the rail forecasts providing 11.3 million trips annually by 2030, using all modes of transportation. Of this projection, 1.7 million trips will be by train. Stations in the state will be located in St. Paul, Red Wing and Winona with tentative locations in Wisconsin: La Crosse, Tomah, Dells, Portage, Columbus and Milwaukee; and two in Illinois: Glenview and Chicago.

With a big project like this comes a big price tag. The construction cost is stated to be around 2 billion or $7.1 million per mile from St. Paul to Milwaukee; from Milwaukee to Chicago is a separate project.

"Two parallel lines never intersect — of course if those lines happen to be railroad lines they can intersect with our future," Drotos said. "It's cleaner, cheaper and more efficient than any other means of transportation."

With hopes of seeing this project meet its budget and continue to progress, Drotos will continue to work towards keeping the high-speed rail on the tracks.

"Trains give us more than just travel," he said. "They give us locomotion."

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

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