Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

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DanPatchToget
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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby DanPatchToget » April 5th, 2016, 10:25 pm

An update on this project:
http://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/ma ... 3094e.html

Talks about starting with bus service between Mankato and Shakopee. I'm guessing travelers would connect to/from the MVTA at one of the park & ride stations? Would make more sense for a one-seat ride to/from Minneapolis or St. Paul. And instead of regional rail on UP's Mankato Subdivision, the leader of the Highway 169 Corridor Coalition wants light rail on Highway 169 all the way to Mankato, citing delays from freight trains causing reliability problems for the Northstar (even though those problems have been mostly taken care of, and the easy and cheaper thing to do would be to improve the UP tracks so there is less conflict).

I'd like to see regional rail from New Ulm and Mankato to both Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Minnesota Valley LRT Regional Trail ROW would be used for trains going to/from Minneapolis. This was Union Pacific's Chaska Spur until the trestle over the Minnesota River collapsed from flooding in 2007 (?). The rest of the right-of-way east of Chaska was abandoned in 1991 by the Chicago & Northwestern.

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby woofner » April 5th, 2016, 10:48 pm

Currently there are 4-6 trips in each direction every day between Minneapolis & Mankato. I'm assuming the shakopee route would be in addition to this. While the current frequency is pretty good, most of the existing runs use short buses so a train route would be a pretty huge capacity jump.

I really doubt New Ulm will ever generate enough trips for train service, although a connecting bus route would probably work (even now probably, with comparable per trip subsidy to the Mankato service).
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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby Silophant » April 5th, 2016, 10:50 pm

It's good to see at least one Blue Earth County elected official pushing for it, as long as we can assume he's just confused about terminology and isn't actually proposing a 90-mile LRT line.

As far as the buses go, I've got to assume they would, in fact, continue to the Hawthorne Transportation Center, not terminate in Shakopee. Even the existing LTA airport shuttles go there after their airport stop.

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby mattaudio » April 6th, 2016, 9:23 am

DanPatchToget wrote:The rest of the right-of-way east of Chaska was abandoned in 1991 by the Chicago & Northwestern.
Wow, I never realized it was abandoned that early, prior to the Union Pacific takeover of the CNW (1995, right?). They must have already had trackage rights on the UP to get to their New Prague/Montgomery spur (originally a Minneapolis & St. Louis mainline to Albert Lea, Iowa, and Peoria, Illinois).

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Re: Shakopee Rail?

Postby UrsusUrbanicus » April 6th, 2016, 1:00 pm

Tcmetro wrote:I don't think a line to Scott County is feasible for a number of reasons:

......
- Valleyfair is a summer only destination. If the riders can't be brought in year round, then forget it.
- Surrounding industrial park is low density as is the new residential areas.
Sorry for jumping back two years -- the new posts on the thread got my attention. :)

Though that industrial park is indeed low-density in terms of FAR, it perhaps isn't as much so in employment terms. I'll admit that this is anecdotal (from experience in my auxiliary employment as a pizza driver in the area)... but FedEx, Imagine Print, Shutterfly, COKeM, CertainTeed, and Emerson in particular seem to employ a lot of people. Plus, who knows what will go into the new spec buildings on Innovation and on 4th? And -- biggest of all -- that new Amazon facility will be firing up soon...

That said, the industrial park does cover a gigantic area, much larger than any possible single-station walkshed. Assuming this Shakopee line were feasible:
A) Would this call for an Industrial East / Valleyfair station around Valley Park Drive plus an Industrial West station closer to Shenandoah? (Served by a north/south street connecting 4th Ave to CSAH 101, acquired from the edges of the Scherer Bros and CertainTeed properties?)
Or B) Would it be economically feasible for Valleyfair to run shuttle buses from a single station more centrally located in the industrial park (say, at Canterbury)? The 496 bus (Shakopee Circulator) could be retimed, rerouted, and/or increased in frequency to coordinate with the train service for industrial park employees. Could there be a "496I" loop added to circulate just the industrial park? Perhaps Valley Park Drive could be rebuilt to fly over 169 (as either a full road or a transitway) to ease the 496 / 496I connection to Dean Lakes Blvd, serving its industrial and retail jobs as well as the dense townhome neighborhood nearby. (This would scotch the 12th Avenue intersection with Valley Park, but Park Place and 11th/Gateway could still provide access, similar to the way local streets relate to Pierce Butler in St. Paul).

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby Mdcastle » April 6th, 2016, 7:48 pm

Valleyfair is a non-issue. The only time a train stop is justified is a couple of nice weekends a summer. They're not in the same class as Cedar Point or even a typical 6 Flags park so you don't have a lot of out-of-the region tourists that would be flying in wanting to go there. Most of their low wage help that can't just drive lives on site. From what I see most visitors pack as many people into a car as possible. You can bet they'd charge $10 a ride for the shuttle to make up for lost parking revenue.

It might be worth considering whether they'd want to make some money off some their parking lot as a park and ride the 325+ days a year they're not using anywhere close to the full amount though.

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby SteveXC500 » April 7th, 2016, 7:40 am

DanPatchToget wrote:An update on this project:
http://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/ma ... 3094e.html

Talks about starting with bus service between Mankato and Shakopee. I'm guessing travelers would connect to/from the MVTA at one of the park & ride stations? Would make more sense for a one-seat ride to/from Minneapolis or St. Paul. And instead of regional rail on UP's Mankato Subdivision, the leader of the Highway 169 Corridor Coalition wants light rail on Highway 169 all the way to Mankato, citing delays from freight trains causing reliability problems for the Northstar (even though those problems have been mostly taken care of, and the easy and cheaper thing to do would be to improve the UP tracks so there is less conflict).

I'd like to see regional rail from New Ulm and Mankato to both Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Minnesota Valley LRT Regional Trail ROW would be used for trains going to/from Minneapolis. This was Union Pacific's Chaska Spur until the trestle over the Minnesota River collapsed from flooding in 2007 (?). The rest of the right-of-way east of Chaska was abandoned in 1991 by the Chicago & Northwestern.

I wonder if this has anything to do with 169 closing for construction between Mankato and St. Peter. Maybe try to keep as many cars off the detour route. Closure begins this month.

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby mattaudio » April 7th, 2016, 8:04 am

Even if things go as fast as possible, it's more likely that 169 will need reconstructing again before rail service commences.

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby froggie » April 7th, 2016, 10:06 am

The 169 construction mentioned is to bring it out of the 100-year floodplain.

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby mulad » April 8th, 2016, 8:02 am

I've had a map of single/double-tracking (mostly sidings) in this corridor sitting in my queue for a while as I think about writing a Streets.mn article. It goes all the way from St. Paul to Sioux City, Iowa, with a line branching off near Worthington to get to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I included all the sidings I could find, but a lot of those are really only intended for car storage at/near customer sites. Some better coordination of rail car storage and strategically extending/combining sidings could improve capacity a lot without a need for huge changes beyond bringing the tracks themselves up to good condition for passenger operation.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit? ... eNc1oe1spU

The longest gaps between sidings are about 14-15 miles, so in theory, the line already has a peak capacity of about one train per direction per hour at 30 mph. Current freight speed limits range from 30-49 mph along the route. Passenger trains can typically add another 10 mph on top of that, though the 49-/59-mph limit implies a lack of any signaling infrastructure.

According to a 2007 Union Pacific timetable that I have, most of the line between St. Paul and Mankato is dispatched using Track Warrant Control, though there is Automatic Block Signaling in place between Merriam and North Mankato, which would allow 79-mph operation by passenger trains if the tracks themselves were in suitable shape. The situation is similar between Mankato and Sioux City -- train movements are primarily governed by TWC, but a short segment from Le Mars to the outskirts of Sioux City has ABS.

The branch to Sioux Falls basically doesn't have any sidings and only supports 10 mph operation for freight, but they also only see about one train per day on that line. My map also includes a segment of abandoned/disused track that could cut several miles off the Worthington - Sioux Falls run. Even without sidings, the branch could handle about one passenger train per direction per hour if the track was upgraded to 79-mph operation. MnDOT has mostly looked at serving Sioux Falls via an extension from a line to Willmar -- not a bad idea in the long run, but I think it would be better to initially serve Sioux City and Sioux Falls using mostly shared track to allow for better overall operating efficiency.

This route also seems to be a little bit shorter for getting to Sioux Falls. A check of highway distances via Google Maps suggests it's about 265 miles from St. Paul to Sioux Falls via Willmar, but only about 250 by going through Worthington. It's about 280 miles from St. Paul to Sioux City, and adding the Worthington to Sioux Falls branch puts on about another 60 miles. That's around 37% less track to serve the two endpoints than if they had two separate lines, and it would roughly double the train frequency for cities along the shared part of the corridor, which would be a pretty big benefit for them.

There's also a possibility of extending one or both of the branches to go south to Omaha, but I haven't examined the options very heavily for that.

Lastly, I'll mention that someone has started an advocacy organization called "TORTA" which is aiming to add passenger service to South Dakota (SD and Wyoming are the only two of the lower 48 states without Amtrak service). Getting to Sioux Falls seems to be the simplest of their goals. They'd also like to see a route to Rapid City (last served by the Dakota 400 in 1955, I suspect), and another long-distance route through the northern part of the state into Montana. Tough sells, but I'm always amazed that the Empire Builder gets the ridership it does considering how rural its route is (but air service there is limited and expensive). Anyway, here's one of the organization's letters to the editor that have popped up lately:

http://www.argusleader.com/story/opinio ... /82662680/

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby Tom H. » April 8th, 2016, 9:40 am

A line to Sioux Falls would be such a huge boon for a lot of people. The Twin Cities is a big college destination for a lot of SF kids (that's how I ended up here), and it became quite a ritual trying to arrange rides over breaks to get back home.

Sioux Falls is also in the process of relocating the switching yard between 6th and 10th Streets, which will open up about 10 acres of developable land on the East Bank. There is still a nice historic train station just south of 8th St, currently used as BNSF offices (I believe).

We spent an afternoon in downtown St James last Saturday as a midpoint stop on a trip to Sioux Falls, and found it very charming and relatively intact (still has a train station "storefront" on the main street). I agree that the boosted frequency on the shared routing between Worthington and the Twin Cities would be of great value to similar railroad towns along Hwy 60/169.

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby mattaudio » April 8th, 2016, 11:06 am

To get to Sioux Falls, you could do:
- BNSF Wayzata Sub to Willmar and then BNSF Marshall Sub to Sioux Falls.
- UP Mankato Sub and Worthington Sub (via Mankato to Worthington) then west on the shortline Minnesota Southern (which would need improvements) to Sioux Falls.
- UP Mankato Sub to Mankato, CP(ex-DM&E)/RCP&E to Florence via New Ulm, then BNSF Marshall Sub to Sioux Falls.
- TC&W to Granite Falls, then south on BNSF Marshall Sub to Sioux Falls.

Personally, the UP route via Worthington would be most appealing, since Mankato seems like it would be a much higher priority for a starter line than Willmar or any of the others. Here's a current DOT map of active freight rail in MN. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/ofrw/maps/MNRailMap.pdf

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Re: Minnesota Valley regional rail (Shakopee, Mankato, beyond)

Postby froggie » April 8th, 2016, 7:24 pm

Small world....I'd come up with a proposal similar to Mulad's seven years ago...


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