Rochester-to-metro high speed rail wouldn't connect in Minneapolis

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When – make that, if – high-speed rail races from Rochester to the Twin Cities, the metro link-up would be in St. Paul or at the airport, not in Minneapolis.

The Pioneer Press reports that the Ramsey County Board got an update on rail possibilities from the Minnesota Transportation Department on Tuesday. The Zip Line would travel the 100-mile corridor between the two metropolitan areas in about 50 minutes, planners said.

"Target Field Station in Minneapolis is no longer a primary destination for this corridor," said Praveena Pidaparthi, DOT planning director, adding that the three leading alternatives include connecting the Rochester line to MSP International or Union Depot in St. Paul – or both.

The GoZipRail website is loaded with specifics about the project.

"We looked at over 1,000 different alignments," said Dan Krom, passenger rail director for MnDOT. He said it would be tricky to get a line into Minneapolis because of "...the built-up urban environment. It's extremely challenging. When you have open, rural areas, it's a lot easier to figure out how you can get a passenger train through there."

He said a final route selection "is probably three years out," due to planning, preliminary engineering and securing funding.

Last month, the Rochester Post Bulletin published a story that said the high-speed rail project got a "chilly reception" in Dodge County, which is one of the counties the line would intersect. A commissioner there said the project would benefit only Olmsted County.

In May, the TwinCitiesDailyPlanet and its partner Streets.mn posted a story that indicated the Zip Line is hardly zipping along to completion. The story said progress is only inching forward, and advocated for more support for the project for its ability to improve regional connections.

"High Speed Rail to Rochester would be a mobility game changer for our region. It would add value to public investments in good transit and walkable places on both ends," the story said.

Four intercity lines are in different stages of planning: Duluth to Minneapolis, a second Amtrak Empire Builder from the Union Depot to Chicago, high-speed rail to Chicago and the Rochester Zip Line.

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