Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Minneapolis, St. Paul and High Speed Rail

Dateline: 4:08 pm March 10, 2009 Filed under:

There is movement afoot to bring high-speed rail service to Minneapolis and St. Paul. A recent article in the Star Tribune newspaper highlighted some of the opportunities and challenges involved. Read the Star Tribune article here.

Challenges abound, and financing may not be the least of them. The rivalry between the two Twin Cities could, ahem, derail the deal at any time. This is because both cities want the train service, which would connect to Chicago in less than three hours when fully operational. St. Paul plans to use its lovely, historic and largely vacant downtown Union Station as the high speed rail terminus. Minneapolis, which has an historic knack for tearing down old buildings, would build an ambitious multimodal rail station from scratch.

Luckily, Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul are on much better terms than past mayors. In fact you could say they are friends, and have worked together on many issues, including a committee of the local Urban Land Institute. Key county commissioners and state legislators appear to be amenable to working together at the present time as well.

Let’s hope the goodwill continues, and that when the time comes, Governor Pawlenty is willing to come to bat. It is possible to have high speed rail service to both Minneapolis and St. Paul, and that may be the way it ends up. After all, both cities legitimately should have the service, and both appear to have plans to accomodate multimodal stations and surrounding real estate development spinoff.

The bottom line is, high speed rail would create a major transportation connection to Chicago and key midwest cities. With existing air and interstate connections, the addition of vastly improved rail service would create an equation where one plus one plus one is more than three.

High speed rail with a quality multimodal station in both Minneapolis and St. Paul is an opportunity we must not miss. It is a key economic development lifeline for the 21st Century.

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