Information on Rail Lines in Minnesota
This page highlights rail lines in Minnesota and the transitways that connect, or are proposed to connect, to transportation hubs in the Twin Cities.
This office is responsible for the study, development and oversight of intercity and high-speed passenger rail service in Minnesota. Useful links:
Passenger Rail – Home Page
Chicago-Minneapolis/St. Paul High-Speed Rail Corridor
The METRO Blue Line Extension (LRT) will operate northwest from downtown Minneapolis through north Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park, drawing riders northwest of Brooklyn Park. The proposed 13 mile route would include 12 stations, including Target Field Station in downtown Minneapolis.
The Gateway Corridor Gold Line BRT is a proposed bus rapid transit line that would run next to Interstate 94 for 12 miles in an exclusive lane on Hudson Road and 4th Street between the Union Depot in downtown Saint Paul and Manning Avenue in Washington County. All-day transit service would stop at 13 stations and include connections to the growing regional transit system. The system could open for service by 2022 and will provide a focal point for new economic development opportunities as the region grows. This would be Minnesota’s first BRT line in an exclusive lane. The work is led by the Gateway Corridor Commission, which is comprised of local elected officials, business and community leaders.
The METRO Blue Line, formerly known as the Hiawatha Line, opened in 2004 and runs along a 12-mile corridor that extends from downtown Minneapolis to Bloomington, including stops at Target Field, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and the Mall of America. The Blue Line, operated by Metro Transit, has carried 90.5 million riders from opening day to the end of 2013. The Blue Line shares five stations with the METRO Green Line and was the first light-rail line in Minnesota.
The METRO Green Line opened in 2014 and connects Minneapolis and Saint Paul from Target Field to Union Depot. A million riders a month have used the line to connect with a variety of businesses, arts and other amenities along the corridor. The LRT line has attracted a wide variety of development including more than 13,000 housing units and more than $2 billion in investment. The line is operated by Metro Transit and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week with trips every 10 minutes throughout the day, every 10-15 minutes in the evenings and every 30-60 minutes overnight.
This proposed rail line would offer a two and a half hour service between the Twin Cities and Duluth with top speeds of 90 mph. In 2008 the Northern Lights Express project received $1.1 million to fund a study of infrastructure needed to support a 90 mph train. The project cost estimate is between $500 and $600 million, down from the previous estimates of nearly $1 billion.
Minnesota’s Northstar Commuter Rail line opened in November 2009 and runs from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis. The Northstar Line, operated by Metro Transit, is an important step in linking a broader transit network from the Twin Cities metro to other parts of Minnesota. The entire route takes an estimated 49 minutes and helps connect passengers to more options in downtown Minneapolis. As a part of the greater picture of Minnesota transportation, the Northstar line fills a much-needed rail void in the region and helps people travel safely along one of the fastest-growing corridors in the state. Northstar connects to St. Cloud with Northstar Link bus service and an expansion to the line is being studied.
The Red Rock Corridor is 30-mile stretch from Hastings to downtown Minneapolis along Highway 61 and Interstate 94. The Metropolitan Council identified the Red Rock Corridor as the area most in-need of an updated transit service that could provide a travel-time advantage for commuters. The Red Rock Corridor is now being pursued as a Bus Rapid Transit line and is developing BRT concepts for feedback.
The Riverview Corridor is a proposed transit project connecting Union Depot in St. Paul to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America as well as neighborhoods, historic districts, businesses, and more. The project is currently conducting a Pre-Project Development Study which will assess the viability of transit modes for the corridor.
The Rush Line Corridor is a transit corridor extending 80 miles from Hinckley to Union Depot in St. Paul, following and including Interstate 35, Interstate 35E and US 61.The Rush Line Corridor Task Force has undertaken an Alternatives Analysis to study longer-term transit options, including LRT from St. Paul to White Bear Lake and bus-rapid transit from St. Paul to Forest Lake. A Pre-Project Development Study is underway to analyze bus and rail alternatives between Forest Lake and Union Depot in St. Paul being conducted by the Rush Line Corridor Task Force and led by the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority.
The Southwest Light Rail Transit (LRT) line is a proposed LRT line serving the southwest metro area including Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina, Hopkins and St. Louis Park with service expected to begin in 2020. In November 2009, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority selected its preferred route, which starts in Eden Prairie and stops at 15 stations, including Eden Prairie Center, United Health Group and many business and residential centers, before connecting to downtown Minneapolis at Target Field. The stations will be served by connections to streets and trails that will attract residential and commercial development. Construction on the extension could begin as soon as 2017.
The Union Depot in Saint Paul serves as a transit hub for bus service, the METRO Green Line light rail line and the Amtrak Empire Builder. Union Depot completed a major renovation and revitalization in 2012 with a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. Bus services like Greyhound, Megabus, Jefferson Lines and Metro Transit all serve Union Depot taking passengers to a wide variety of destinations. Union Depot would serve as the St. Paul connection to Minnesota High-Speed Rail and is positioned to be a major hub for a number of light rail or bus transitways.
Zip Rail is a proposed high-speed passenger rail service that would connect Rochester, the state’s third largest city, with the Twin Cities. Zip Rail would offer true high speed rail, with speeds of up to 150-220 mph on dedicated track, offering no slow-downs due to freight rail competition. A broader cross-section of the state would stand to benefit from the potential for future connections to other cities and states. The project assumes public funding for capital costs, but anticipates the potential of reduced public financial support once initial capital costs are covered because faster speeds generate higher ridership, which equals a higher return on investment. The Minnesota Department of Transportation suspended work on Zip Rail in January 2016 and issued permits to study the route to the North American High Speed Rail Group.
The North American High Speed Rail Group (NAHSR) has proposed building a privately funded and operated elevated high-speed rail line on the same route between Rochester and the Twin Cities. This is a separate proposal not connected with Zip Rail. The NAHSR Proposal would not require public funds to move forward and will require its own feasibility study. The company expects to have a decision on the project by July 2016.
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