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Legislation for Minnesota’s ports and passenger rail gets hearing in House Capital Investment Committee

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

St. Paul, MN - Today, the House Capital Investment Committee heard presentations from the Minnesota Department of Transportation on passenger rail, freight rail, and ports before considering related legislation. Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL - Hermantown) presented HF1109, which would invest in a high-speed rail between Minneapolis and Duluth; Rep. Alice Hausman’s (DFL - St. Paul) HF1251 would help establish a second daily passenger train from the Twin Cities to Chicago; and Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL - Winona) brought forward HF1005, which would fund Minnesota’s Port Development Assistance Program. 

“Minnesota’s railways and ports have long been part of the state’s history, and an injection of sensible investment can help start the process of ensuring they’re an important part of Minnesota’s future,” said Rep. Fue Lee (DFL - Minneapolis), chair of the committee. “With additional funding from either the federal government, other states, or private entities, the legislation heard in committee today provide a smart opportunity to invest in a more modern Minnesota.”

The legislation heard today did not receive a committee vote, but was instead laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bonding bill. All three bills would see a mix of state, federal, or private dollars to fully fund these projects and updates. 

“There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating passenger rail creates jobs and encourages community investments and development. The $10 million in the bill is required to match a federal grant of $31.8 million,” said Rep. Hausman of her legislation. “The federal government, Wisconsin, and Amtrak already have their money on the table, so the need is urgent. An economic study by All Aboard Minnesota has determined a positive impact on the economy of a region.”

Minnesota is home to 16 regional and shortline railroads, four Class I railroads, and 4,300 route miles - the 8th highest in the US. The main ports in the state are focused along the Mississippi River and Lake Superior, with the state’s Port Development Assistance Program expediting the movement of commodities and promoting the economic development of Minnesota’s ports and harbors. 

“The Winona Port has seen lumber as a commodity in the 19th century, agricultural products in the 20th century, and giant wind turbine blades in the 21st century - all of these essential to the vitality of Minnesota's economy,” said Rep. Pelowski. “The Winona Port's economic impact is increasing and needs to be continually upgraded to meet the demands of the 21st century.”

More information and supporting materials are available on the committee’s webpage. Video recording of today’s hearing will be made available on the House Public Information YouTube channel