From: Paul Schollmeier
Much work has been done for more than a decade by the Great River Rail Commission to bring a second train to the river corridor. Former Mayor Jerry Miller was a founding chair of the commission, and other local officials from Winona County and the city of Winona have served on the commission to guide efforts by MnDOT and the state. This year, the state of Minnesota joined Wisconsin in a matching grant to upgrade rails and train signaling capabilities to make a second passenger train between Chicago and the Twin Cities possible.
What is exciting about this successful lobbying is the more than $19 million dollars in upgrades in our city alone. This is the largest rail upgrade in our area in decades, and the improvements will not only bring a second passenger train to Winona but will also enable more efficient movement of freight trains through the city, as well as bring much needed improvements to the Winona station.
There is still much work to do to follow through with these improvements, and the Great River Rail Commission will be there to advise and represent the communities along the route. Unfortunately, the city has announced, through their commission representative, that they are no longer interested in the commission activities. This is an unfortunate decision, as design work isn’t even completed, much less construction. It is very important for the city to be involved and have a guiding influence on the upcoming improvements and to participate with stakeholders to continue to have a voice at the table.
With this amount of construction happening in our city, I think it prudent to be there for follow through to ensure the ultimate success of the second train and accompanying improvements. Now is not the time to silence our voices on this very important project. Both the city of Winona and Winona County are stakeholders in a $19 million rail project that benefits all sectors of our regional economy. Please contact your city or county representative to encourage them to continue to be members of the commission, as well. Information about the TCMC Second Train and the proposed improvements can be found here: www.greatriverrail.org/second-train-at-a-glance.