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Rochester, Red Rock routes in rail plan

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is currently unveiling a state rail plan that includes a high-speed rail route from the Twin Cities to Chicago passing through south Washington County as well as a route that would go through Rochester, bypassing Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport.

In 20 years, half of the daily train trips from the Twin Cities to Chicago, might pass through Rochester, and half through the Red Rock Corridor, said David Christianson, MnDOT project manager for statewide rail.

The Red Rock Corridor route, which connects Minneapolis, St. Paul and Hastings, would be the first to be upgraded for high speed rail to Chicago under the plan, Christianson said, because there is existing track there.

The route through Rochester would require laying down new track and purchasing right-of-way, but trains would be able to travel at higher speeds on that track, he said.

MnDOT has applied for federal stimulus money to pay for the high-speed rail project, and the state should find out in January whether it will get that funding, Christianson said.