NLX Named in State Study Ordered by Pawlenty

Friday, April 3rd, 2009 at 9:59 am

nle1Saint Paul – A statewide study of future rail lines in Minnesota will consider all options, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced today, as the state prepares an application for federal stimulus funding for rail projects.

Governor Pawlenty is directing Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel and the Minnesota Intercity Passenger Rail Transportation Forum to study all potential future rail lines in Minnesota. The group will advise Commissioner Sorel on the implementation of a comprehensive statewide freight and passenger rail plan and on which projects to submit for federal funding.  Governor Pawlenty and First District Congressman Tim Walz have discussed at length the need to study all potential rail corridors through a data-driven process.

The rail forum’s work will assist efforts as the state applies for federal funding for high-speed rail contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other related federal programs.  The stimulus package includes $8 billion for capital grants for high-speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail.

“We should consider every option, including rail, as we build a 21st Century transportation system that assists economic development and better moves people and goods around our state,” Governor Pawlenty said.  “Minnesota will compete for federal rail funds in a comprehensive manner based on data and analysis.  The rail forum is already off to a good start and will ensure that our application makes the best case for our state.”

Rail lines that Governor Pawlenty directed to be considered in the statewide study include the “Northern Lights Express” between the Twin Cities and Duluth and a Twin Cities to Chicago high-speed rail line that could include access to Winona and Rochester.

Congressman Tim Walz said, “I’ve long been a strong advocate for studying all potential rail lines in Minnesota through a data-driven process. I’m pleased that the Pawlenty Administration is undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of the state’s rail future.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to make a significant investment in high speed rail and we need to make the correct long-term decision for the state of Minnesota and the country,” said Congressman Walz.  “While southern Minnesota, including the communities of Rochester and Winona, appears to be well-positioned today to potentially benefit from high-speed rail the State of Minnesota must complete the comprehensive analysis first and produce the data to make the strongest case possible for our entire state.  We are competing with several other states for the same pot of federal funding. That’s why I’m pleased that the Pawlenty Administration is completing a thorough analysis of all the possible routes, so that Minnesota will be well positioned to compete for the available federal funding.”

Federal grants for rail projects will be awarded on a competitive basis by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT).  The U.S. DOT will unveil their national strategic plan for high speed rail by April 18 which will include such information as (1) the proposed schedule for providing grant funds under the ARRA, (2) the criteria that will be used to select projects, (3) the reporting and evaluation process to measure effectiveness, and (4) the relationship to existing the intercity passenger rail program.

The U.S. DOT will then provide “interim guidance” to prospective applicants like the state of Minnesota by June 17 covering the grant terms, conditions and procedures applicants will need to satisfy in order to submit applications, including deadlines for submission and selection.

(From Office of Governor Tim Pawlenty)

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