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Region needs a commuter rail plan

Another step in the long development road of returning commuter rail to the Willmar-Twin Cities corridor occurred Wednesday night.

A coalition of local, state and national officials held a meeting in Willmar to discuss this very concept -- creating a commuter rail along the existing BNSF Railway corridor, which runs along U.S. Highway 12.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, and Rep. Al Juhnke, D-Willmar, have been leading the early effort to develop the commuter rail concept in west central Minnesota. The Little Crow Transit Way was included in the recent state efforts.

We commend the Minnesota Department of Transportation for hold a meeting to hear about this region's needs.

This commuter rail effort will take many years to develop. Yet it will be very important to the region.

First, as energy prices continue to escalate, west central Minnesota will find a growing need for commuter rail to reach the Twin Cities.

Second, commuter rail can have a positive census impact on the cities along the corridor. Citizens needing to go to the metro area -- for work, education or business -- can travel, but live back in cities of our region.

West central Minnesota remains the black transportation hole of this state. Moreover, it is quite plain right there on the state map.

- No access to the nation's four-lane Interstate system.

- No access to passenger rail.

- No access to air transportation.

This lack of basic transportation access has a direct impact on economic development of this region.

This commuter rail effort will need the support of every community along the Hwy 12-BNSF rail corridor.

The sooner we all start working on this, the sooner it may become reality.