The plan for a publicly funded high-speed rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities has been shelved because of lack of money and political support, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) said Wednesday.
Zip Rail’s co-partner, the Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority, votes Tuesday on a resolution to suspend the project, said County Board Member Paul Wilson.
The possible end to Zip Rail, which could make the 100-mile trip in 45 to 50 minutes, doesn’t mean the end of a high-speed line connecting the home of the Mayo Clinic with the Twin Cities.
A private company, the North American High Speed Rail Group, has expressed interest in a privately funded line, and has been given the go-ahead by MnDOT to do a feasibility study.
The Zip Line idea drew opposition from politicians and landowners along the proposed route, while the rail line was at least a decade or two from realization.
So far, $2.3 million has been spent on an environmental analysis, and MnDOT officials knew the project faced an uphill funding battle. There are no existing rail lines between the two cities and no federal funding on the horizon.
Dan Krom, director of MnDOT’s passenger rail office, said this was a good time to suspend the project. It can be picked up in the future if there are political support and resources for it, Krom said. Meanwhile, North American High Speed Rail said it can do the same thing with different technology.
The state is going forward with its planned Duluth-to-Twin Cities rail line and with adding a second high-speed daily train to Chicago.
Wilson was optimistic about the future of high-speed rail, too.
“We may have hit a bump, maybe a big bump,” he said. “We’ll see how things play out. Developing the concept and moving forward is a good opportunity for Minnesota. I feel bullish about our future.”