The passenger rail advocacy group All Aboard Minnesota conducted a rally for more passenger train service in Minnesota at the state Capitol on March 6.
More than 70 supporters from around the state attended, coming from Brainerd, Winona, Red Wing, St. Cloud, Duluth and the Twin Cities metro area.
The event spurred action for supporters to meet individually with their legislators for more passenger rail service as defined in the Minnesota Department of Transportation passenger rail plan. Supporters reported their legislators were supportive of legislation to fund more passenger service.
"For the first time in years there is real momentum in the House and Senate to fund more passenger trains in Minnesota, with several funding bills introduced in both houses, and the governor's bonding request for $11 million," Brian Nelson, All Aboard Minnesota president stated in a news release. "Now is the perfect time to raise awareness within the legislature about the benefits of more passenger trains."
The event highlighted new planned service from the Twin Cities to Duluth, and additional service between the Twin Cities and Chicago, with extended services to St.Cloud and Fargo eventually bringing new and expanded service to 25 outstate communities, including Brainerd.
State Reps. Dan Wolgamott, Alice Hausman, Frank Hornstein, and Minnesota Sens. Melisa Franzen, Jerry Newton, and Senate President Jeremy Miller all spoke at the event in support of more passenger train service for the state.
In a news release, Rep. Hausman stated: "Many other Midwestern states are investing in passenger rail, they see the benefits. We are being left behind and it will hurt our economic competitiveness if we don't step up."
Rail advocacy groups such as the Great River Rail Commission, Northern Lights Alliance, West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition, Smart Transportation and the Environmental Law and Policy Center presented at the event. Amtrak and MnDOT representatives also attended.
"More passenger trains offer tremendous economic and mobility benefits," Nelson added in the release. "The additional service between the Twin Cities and Chicago would alone generate about $23 million in net benefit to the state, along with reducing 15 million car miles in this corridor when this new service is provided. For many types of travelers who do not like or cannot drive or fly, the train offers a real alternative."
All Aboard Minnesota is a nonprofit advocacy and education organization focused on the expansion and development of more long-distance rail passenger service as part of a balanced transportation system. For more information, All Aboard Minnesota can be reached at 612-781-2894 or at www.allaboardmn.org.