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HSR for MSP to Duluth progressing

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Plans Progress for High-Speed Rail from Mpls to Duluth

The Northern Lights Express, a proposed high-speed rail line connecting the Twin Cities and Duluth, is now picking up speed, transportation leaders believe, after getting an environmental green light and gathering public comment Thursday night in what the person spearheading the project described as "a big milestone."

 

"We are going to move forward," Julie Carr, the NLX project manager, said in an interview.

 

Carr led an environmental assessment open house Thursday at the Armed Forces Community Center in Cambridge, where a court reporter transcribed public comments and large posterboards showcased the project, which MnDOT estimates will cost between $800-$950 million.

...

The 155-mile route would speed passengers at up to 110 miles per hour between Minneapolis and Duluth, a trip that would take between two to two and a half hours, since speeds would be slower in the cities and time would be factored in for stops at stations along the way.

 

Cambridge is one of four proposed stops, along with Coon Rapids; Hinckley; and Superior, Wisconsin. Click here for a route map.

 

The state is using $8 million in initial funding to move into a preliminary engineering stage later this year, which could last for two or three years.

Final funding to actually build the project has not been secured.

Edited by CHamilton

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Native Minnesotan here.

 

Not the best use of resources. If new line is to be built then run it to Rochester, which has much more going on than does Duluth.

 

I can think of lots of political reasons why Duluth, I can think of lots of Indian gaming reasons why Duluth via Hinckley, but I can't think of a single reason why a billion bucks for a line to Duluth is a good use of that money when there are other projects in the state that can serve more passengers.

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Yeah I have been scratching my head a bit about the Duluth thing myself. but then again, I know next to nothing about travel patterns in Minnesota, so I had chalked it up as my own unfamiliarity until I read the message above.

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Don't forget that Duluth is across the stateline from Superior, WI. According to the census bureau the Duluth metro area

is population 279,000 while the Rochester metro area is population 209,000.

 

So Duluth has Rochester beat in terms of overall population. That in and of itself proves nothing. But it's a relevant

data point nonetheless.

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Don't forget that Duluth is across the stateline from Superior, WI. According to the census bureau the Duluth metro area

is population 279,000 while the Rochester metro area is population 209,000.

 

So Duluth has Rochester beat in terms of overall population. That in and of itself proves nothing. But it's a relevant

data point nonetheless.

Rochester is a growing, affluent city with the Mayo Clinic and related high-end businesses, Duluth is a struggling blue-collar port city that has lost more than 20 percent of its population in the past few decades. It is the gateway to the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior but a train will never take you past Two Harbors.

 

I love Duluth, but would never take a train there.

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Don't forget that Duluth is across the stateline from Superior, WI. According to the census bureau the Duluth metro area

is population 279,000 while the Rochester metro area is population 209,000.

 

So Duluth has Rochester beat in terms of overall population. That in and of itself proves nothing. But it's a relevant

data point nonetheless.

Rochester is a growing, affluent city with the Mayo Clinic and related high-end businesses, Duluth is a struggling blue-collar port city that has lost more than 20 percent of its population in the past few decades. It is the gateway to the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior but a train will never take you past Two Harbors.

 

I love Duluth, but would never take a train there.

 

I expect the train is for people living in Duluth to travel to the Twin Cities, not vice versa. And if inbound traffic is the goal, then a higher population

in the outlying city is a plus. Point taken about the trajectories of the two metro areas, however.

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Rochester is a growing, affluent city with the Mayo Clinic and related high-end businesses, Duluth is struggling blue-collar port city that has lost more than 20 percent of its population in the past few decades. It is the gateway to the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior but a train will never take you past Two Harbors.

 

I love Duluth, but would never take a train there.

Checking the stats on Duluth, the city bottomed out in population decline in the 1990 census and has had been around 86K since then. The metropolitan area has a population of 280K.

 

While the city may be struggling, the question is how to help boost the economy and improve transportation options to and from the city. Reasonably fast intercity train service to the Twin Cities is one way to do that. Now whether train service to Rochester MN should be given priority over service to Duluth, that is up to the politicians who control the levers of power and the planning staffs to determine/ As it stands, this is a PE and EIS study. They are a long way from an official decision, getting the funds, and starting construction.

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The prior Amtrak train between the Twin Cities and Duluth was fairly well patronized. I remember riding it in 1970s when most seats were occupied. It was not very fast at 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Originally it left the Twin Cities about 8AM and arrived in Duluth at 11:45AM. It returned at 5:30PM and arrived in the Twin Cities about 9PM. Towards the end it was run as the Northstar from Chicago to Duluth. Local patronage from the Twin Cities to Duluth dropped off because the train from Chicago was often late. They really needed 2to trains per day in each direction to give choices. The MN legislature became more conservative and withdrew the MN subsidy and that was the end of that.

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Seems like if you had a once-a-day frequency the schedule should be geared toward same-day round-trips from Duluth

into the Twin Cities. Leave Duluth at 7 a.m. getting into MSP at 9:30 a.m., and the return trip leaving MSP at 6 p.m.

arriving Duluth at 8:30 p.m. Train overnights in Duluth...repeat the process the next day, etc. If you had the funding/demand

you could easily squeeze in a mid-day round-trip as well.

 

Would be nice if it made for good connections on the EB for people heading to Chicago, but the current callings times

for 7/8 at MSP wouldn't make for good same-day connections to Chicago.

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Remind me: Is Hinkley the casino stop they were looking at?

 

Hinckley does have a casino, Grand Casino Hinckley, so it is probably the "casino" stop in question. My wife was born in the area and we frequent the casino when we go back visiting her family.

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For a service over a distance of this length, once a day is hardly worth doing. Twice to three times a day is better. If you look at the North Carolina example, if I recall correctly when they added the third Raleigh - Charlotte train, the ridership per each increased.

 

It does not matter if the train is fast if you have to wait a long time between the time you want to go and the time you can go. Over distances of this range, you simply drive instead rather than endure a long wait.

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If you look at the map, the line would go to downtown Minneapolis instead of the St. Paul Union Depot, which will be the Empire Builder's station. This lack of a connection could be addressed if Amtrak put a station NW of Minneapolis where the two lines would merge at Coon Rapids.

 

However, if an additional train between Chicago and the Twin Cities is ever put in place, it would be better for the Duluth line to marry up with Amtrak at St. Paul -- greater potential for cross use.

 

MN has to figure out how to get people to ride the Northstar Commuter line before it undertakes HSR to Duluth. http://www.startribune.com/local/north/161518155.html?refer=y

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MN has to figure out how to get people to ride the Northstar Commuter line before it undertakes HSR to Duluth. http://www.startribune.com/local/north/161518155.html?refer=y

Yep. Realistically, the money would be much better spent extending the line to St. Cloud and increasing frequencies on the Northstar. They're halfway there already, they have equipment and crews, and there's already some service along the entire corridor already (when including the Link.) Minnesota needs to finish what it started before working on more lines.

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The long-term story seems to be that one train per day doesn't tend to work too well (there are a lot of places that a single daily frequency seems to have been/turned into a false start). 2x daily works alright as a rule, and 3-5x daily seems to be a sweet spot.

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I don't see how this project is progressing without Anoka County on board. I'd agree that it's much more important to finish the Northstar line to St. Cloud, especially because the present poor performance of the Northstar is used as a stick to beat every other rail transit project in the Twin Cities. Almost as though it was designed intentionally to fail.

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I don't see how this project is progressing without Anoka County on board. I'd agree that it's much more important to finish the Northstar line to St. Cloud, especially because the present poor performance of the Northstar is used as a stick to beat every other rail transit project in the Twin Cities. Almost as though it was designed intentionally to fail.

That is why bad rail projects are worse than no rail projects.

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I don't know anything about where would be best to put a rail line in MN, and I guess it's their money to do with as they please. But... When I read this, I can just imagine so many other places in the US where a new rail service would make much more sense. If someone was going to spend $1bil on linking two cities, I'd much rather it was AZ spending it to link Phoenix and Tucson, just for selfish reasons.

 

So, here's a game: If $1bil was up for grabs, like it just fell from the sky, and you could use it to create a new rail link or new service connecting two areas, where would you put it? Some basic rules apply to make it comparable to MN: <200 miles, up to 110mph. So, what would you do?

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I don't know anything about where would be best to put a rail line in MN, and I guess it's their money to do with as they please. But... When I read this, I can just imagine so many other places in the US where a new rail service would make much more sense. If someone was going to spend $1bil on linking two cities, I'd much rather it was AZ spending it to link Phoenix and Tucson, just for selfish reasons.

 

So, here's a game: If $1bil was up for grabs, like it just fell from the sky, and you could use it to create a new rail link or new service connecting two areas, where would you put it? Some basic rules apply to make it comparable to MN: <200 miles, up to 110mph. So, what would you do?

Not Duluth? Joking aside, and depending on your definition of "new service", [RGH-]RVR-WAS would probably get my vote assuming it was feasible with that kind of money (most projects are more expensive, but they also tend to assume faster speeds). After that, I start dumping money into Florida and I don't give a "hoot" if the FEC runs the trains and makes money off of the public investment. Then it's into extending the CHI-Quad Cities service through to OMA. After that? Front Range in Colorado, followed by new services extending off the NEC such as serving Scranton, etc. (though a lot of those run into terrain issues), followed then by other Midwest projects.

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Who will pay if NLX fails?
By David Levinson on April 15, 2013 10:10 AM

 

 

I was asked to write an opinion piece for The Pine City Pioneer: Who will pay if NLX fails? in response to one put forward by project consultant Alexander Metcalf of TEMS:

"TEMS, the consultant hired to advocate for the project, asserts that revenue will exceed operating costs at higher speeds. I agree that both revenue and costs will increase with speed, whether one increases faster than the other is an empirical question on which forecasts are highly questionable for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is lack of existing service on which to base such assumptions. Many have suggested the Downeaster is the most comparable market.

The Downeaster already carried 300,000 riders in 2005 and was in fact forecast to carry 625,000 passengers between Boston and Portland in 2015, so, [the fact] that it exceeds 525,000 riders in 2012 after a major investment is hardly testament to it beating targets.

More important is to compare the structure of the markets. Boston and Portland are less than 100 miles apart. Duluth is 137 miles from Minneapolis, so you would expect more trips between Boston and Portland if the sizes of the city pairs were equal. They are not.

The population of metropolitan Portland, Maine (516,000) exceeds that of Duluth (280,000); while the metropolitan Boston combined statistical area (7.6 million) remains larger than the Twin Cities (3.6 million). The number of trips between two places is a product of their sizes and inversely proportional to the travel time. On a population basis alone we expect the Boston to Portland market to have almost four times as many trips as Minneapolis to Duluth...."

 

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Guest Nathanael
I don't know anything about where would be best to put a rail line in MN, and I guess it's their money to do with as they please. But... When I read this, I can just imagine so many other places in the US where a new rail service would make much more sense. If someone was going to spend $1bil on linking two cities, I'd much rather it was AZ spending it to link Phoenix and Tucson, just for selfish reasons.

 

So, here's a game: If $1bil was up for grabs, like it just fell from the sky, and you could use it to create a new rail link or new service connecting two areas, where would you put it? Some basic rules apply to make it comparable to MN: <200 miles, up to 110mph. So, what would you do?

Ithaca, NY to Andover, NJ (onward on existing tracks to Hoboken for NYC), via Scranton, PA and Binghamton, NY. This is known as "selfish local bias".

 

:-)

 

If my parochial local interests were satisfied or not an option, I'd pick something else. Actually, before starting a new service, I'd improve some old services: first priority for me would be a fast passenger-exclusive route from Chicago Union Station eastward, for the joint use of the Michigan trains, New Orleans/Carbondale trains, and East Coast trains all at once.

 

Bluntly, the Duluth project is advancing because the region around Duluth would really, really like its passenger trains back. It's a source of votes to put the train back in. By contrast, many areas don't really care enough for anyone to vote on that basis. I see nothing wrong in pandering to local taste.

 

Agreed that Northstar needs to get to St. Cloud. I think St. Cloud even cares enough to push for it, perhaps.

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I don't know anything about where would be best to put a rail line in MN, and I guess it's their money to do with as they please. But... When I read this, I can just imagine so many other places in the US where a new rail service would make much more sense. If someone was going to spend $1bil on linking two cities, I'd much rather it was AZ spending it to link Phoenix and Tucson, just for selfish reasons.

 

So, here's a game: If $1bil was up for grabs, like it just fell from the sky, and you could use it to create a new rail link or new service connecting two areas, where would you put it? Some basic rules apply to make it comparable to MN: <200 miles, up to 110mph. So, what would you do?

Atlanta-Chattanooga, though I'd settle for 79mph. Might could do it for less, but at the expense of greater travel time. As Bill Haithcoat and George Harris have pointed out before, the line is CURVY!

Alternately, I'd just use 1 billion for Atlanta commuter rail! (definitely less than 200 miles! :P)

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I don't know anything about where would be best to put a rail line in MN, and I guess it's their money to do with as they please. But... When I read this, I can just imagine so many other places in the US where a new rail service would make much more sense. If someone was going to spend $1bil on linking two cities, I'd much rather it was AZ spending it to link Phoenix and Tucson, just for selfish reasons.

 

So, here's a game: If $1bil was up for grabs, like it just fell from the sky, and you could use it to create a new rail link or new service connecting two areas, where would you put it? Some basic rules apply to make it comparable to MN: <200 miles, up to 110mph. So, what would you do?

Ithaca, NY to Andover, NJ (onward on existing tracks to Hoboken for NYC), via Scranton, PA and Binghamton, NY. This is known as "selfish local bias".

:-)

 

 

Actually I'd seriously consider using it to complete a higher speed connection from Port Morris NJ (Lake Hopatcong) to Scranton and then upgrade to Binghamton NY. That should exhaust the 1 billion, and open up possibilities of a second viable route via the Southern Tier from New York to Buffalo, and also a route from NE Pennsylvania to Albany, with a little additional connecting track work at Schenectady. :) Of course not to mention, it would also facilitate offloading I80 a bit with some well run regional service between Scranton via Morris County and Essex County in NJ and then onto Hoboken or New York.

 

Potentially bring back the 21st century Phoebe Snow!!!

 

Just dreamin' mind you :)

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The Northstar commuter trains terminate at Big Lake (middle of nowhere )Thats instead of St.Cloud because a certain congress person who ran for President pushed for less funding for a shorter rout.

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