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Board reviews high-speed rail agreement

If high-speed rail ever travels from St. Paul to Chicago, it will travel through more than two dozen jurisdictions in Minnesota.

The first step is to get them all on the same page.

The Washington Board of Commissioners took a look at a Rail Joint Powers Agreement that is a step in getting those counties and cities on the same planning track for such a rail corridor. The agreement is an initial step necessary to position Minnesota for the receipt of federal funds, according to a letter accompanying the proposed agreement.

The timing of the agreement is especially important considering that there is a $100 million Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission request for Minnesota in the proposed federal economic stimulus package.

The proposed agreement would be between Dakota, Washington, Wabasha, Winona, Houston, Olmstead and Goodhue counties, and cities along the Canadian Pacific railroad track to between the Union Depot in St. Paul and La Crescent, traveling along the Mississippi River.

It is proposed that the entire rail system would be a 3,000-mile nine-state high-speed rail network. The Minnesota High Speed Rail Corridor would connect Minnesota to Chicago.

It is expected that studies on the rail system will begin by mid- to late summer, said Wayne Sandberg, the county's deputy director of the public works department.

Commissioner Gary Kriesel simply cautioned that he would like some idea of what such a project would cost before any further studies are completed.

Commissioners also discussed an alternative transportation plan for Interstate 94. "Right now, the plan for 94 is what you see today," Sandberg said.