Viewpoint: High-speed rail would bring a lot to CGCan you imagine being able to jump on a train in the morning to go catch the Twins playing ball in Chicago, or go shopping or sightseeing there, and then coming back home the same day without the hassle of the driving?
By: Jen Peterson, South Washington County Bulletin
Can you imagine being able to jump on a train in the morning to go catch the Twins playing ball in Chicago, or go shopping or sightseeing there, and then coming back home the same day without the hassle of the driving? What about a quick trip to the Dells for a day at the waterpark without the hotel stay? There’s a stop planned there too. Think about this in reverse too. The entire Twin Cities area could see increases in shopping, the theater scene, sporting events and tourism in general from our potentially not-so-distant neighbors in Chicago. It really wouldn’t be totally out of the question for people to actually be able to go to work, a meeting or a conference in Chicago and be back home in Cottage Grove in time for a late dinner.
I recently became a supporter of On Board Midwest, a coalition advocating for the proposed 400-mile, St. Paul-to-Chicago passenger rail line. This rail line would enter Minnesota at La Crescent. It would travel north along the Mississippi River for 150 miles with stops in Winona and Red Wing, pass through Cottage Grove, and come to an end at the historic Union Depot in St. Paul. At the Union Depot, there would be connections to the Amtrak, Metro Transit bus, many commuter rail lines and more.
On Board Midwest is made up of elected officials, businesses, individuals and other transit advocates from Winona to St. Paul who are working together to make sure our region secures this important transit investment. By joining On Board Midwest, I have the chance to help make the most of the opportunities that this rail line could bring Cottage Grove and the surrounding community. Cottage Grove would benefit economically from the proposed line as we are just outside St. Paul. This project would create 1,570 permanent jobs and up to $180 million in joint economic development potential at or near the rail stations, and give local business greater access to markets in the Midwest and the rest of the country. There will be many companies and industries wanting to expand or locate near this transportation network. Since St. Paul is already saturated with businesses, Cottage Grove can provide the much-needed space to develop or expand a business along the high speed rail line in a nice, growing suburban community.
This is the first of several proposed rail lines in Minnesota. It is our state’s best chance to secure funding during the first wave of federal investment and help other future rail projects move from the planning stage to the next phase. The high-speed rail line along the Mississippi River has already received tremendous support from members of our Congressional delegation, including Rep. Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar and Tim Walz. Later this year, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will release its statewide rail plan, and this project will ideally be at the top of the list. Once funding is secured and the project is underway, it would enable Amtrak to expand its operations in this area, help increase freight service to businesses and farmers in the region, and help create infrastructure and momentum for additional rail development.
The Midwest is competing against other projects from around the country. Working together as a region and coalition, we can make our voices heard in Washington, D.C., and help our members of Congress secure funding for our project. I invite and encourage local businesses, individuals, elected officials, advocates or organizations of the Cottage Grove community to get connected with On Board Midwest. To learn more about this huge opportunity for our region and for Cottage Grove, please visit: www.OnBoardMidwest.org
Jen Peterson is a Cottage Grove City Council member and a member of the Minnesota High Speed Rail Commission.