NEW? All aboard rail service

City groups want Rochester to be a stop on a Twin Cities-Chicago route

By Jeffrey Pieters

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Rochester officials are urging state and federal leaders to include the city on a Twin Cities-to-Chicago high-speed rail route.

At a news conference this morning, Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, with officials from Mayo Clinic, Olmsted County and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, announced formation of the Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance, an advocacy group for the rail issue.


"As the economic hub of southeast Minnesota, it makes sense that high-speed rail service from the Twin Cities to Chicago include a stop in Rochester," Brede said.

Officials note Mayo Clinic’s standing as a global health care destination, and the possibility that Rochester International Airport, when reached by high-speed rail, could serve as a relief valve for the congested Twin Cities airport.

No cost estimates or likely routings were part of this morning’s presentation. It’s too early for those, but not too early for Rochester to make its desires known with respect to passenger rail, officials said.

"The long-term future of Mayo depends on having reliable, affordable and convenient transportation for our patients," said Dr. Wyatt Decker of Mayo Clinic.

Rochester’s announcement comes as the country considers inter-regional rail systems as a means of combating rising fuel prices, as well as addressing environmental concerns and growing problems within the airline industry.

The nation’s interest seems to be turning toward rail. Amtrak ridership reached record levels this year, according to news reports.

Rochester sits on only one possible path for a regional line. Other possible routes between the Twin Cities and Chicago would follow the Mississippi River or go through Eau Claire.

Officials said the alliance will study potential ridership figures for each of the line alternatives. It’s possible the local alliance may join lobbying forces with other cities along the route.


The same four groups forming the alliance are the four groups united as the Rochester Coalition fighting the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad expansion.

The group said that passenger rail service offers a likely economic benefit, whereas the DM&E proposal is a safety concern because of a possible catastrophic derailment involving hazardous materials.

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