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Editorial: Region must push for passenger rail service

West central Minnesota needs to start working on development of passenger rail service from Minneapolis westward into the region. Communities like Willmar and Litchfield along the BNSF Railway corridor have a stake in the discussion of rail servi...

West central Minnesota needs to start working on development of passenger rail service from Minneapolis westward into the region. Communities like Willmar and Litchfield along the BNSF Railway corridor have a stake in the discussion of rail service in Minnesota.

Much of the discussion in Minnesota to this point has been about the Northstar Commuter Rail Project. The plan is to develop commuter rail service along the 82-mile transportation corridor from downtown Minneapolis to the St. Cloud/Rice area.

There is now discussion about a Minneapolis-to-Duluth rail line. A study released this week said that a Minneapolis-to-Duluth rail line could generate almost $2 billion in development and more than 13,000 job along the five rail stops on the proposed line.

There has also been discussion about rail lines from the Twin Cities to Rochester and Mankato. It is time for west central Minnesota to start talking about rail service from Minneapolis to Willmar and beyond. If the region does not start this discussion now, 20 or 30 years from now the region will remain off the rail grid just as it today remains disconnected from the Interstate four-lane system.

Passenger rail service to west central Minnesota will become more critical in the coming decades, especially as the cost of petroleum continues to increase. The population growth along the Highway 12 corridor and in western Minneapolis suburbs will increase the need for the service.

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Public officials -- city, county and state -- need to start the discussion of rail service for west central Minnesota as soon as possible. If the discussion does not start soon, the west central Minnesota region will be left behind again as the rail service corridors to St. Cloud, Duluth, Rochester and Mankato are built.

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