Minnesota Comprehensive Statewide Freight and Passenger Rail Plan

Minnesota Department of Transportation


Develop a comprehensive freight and passenger rail statewide plan for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (DOT). This first rail plan in the State’s history will provide a strategic framework for rail planning moving forward, particularly in the integration of freight and passenger rail planning as Minnesota seeks to position itself for the new generation of Federal passenger rail programs.

Minnesota is completing its first commuter rail line (Northstar) and is actively involved in planning other commuter rail service to the Twin Cities and intercity passenger connections to Duluth and Wisconsin/Chicago. Minnesota has an extensive rail freight network with 4 Class I carriers and 16 short lines, which carries about one-third of all cargo tonnage moved in the State. The passenger rail program seeks to leverage this already existing infrastructure.

Our Approach

Key elements of Cambridge Systematics’ approach included:

  • Based on a thorough, geographic information systems-based inventory of the freight rail network, future freight growth was modeled to identify the freight rail system improvements necessary to provide freight rail fluidity.
  • Passenger rail corridors were identified through a common demand estimation process and evaluation of existing freight rail infrastructure.
  • Extensive public outreach was involved in the plan development, including detailed review by technical advisory committees and contributions from the public through open house meetings and more than 78 stakeholder group meetings.

Project Results

The Commissioner of Mn/DOT formally accepted the plan on February 9, 2010, and submitted it to the Legislature. Minnesota Comprehensive Statewide Passenger and Freight Rail Plan can be viewed here. Cambridge Systematics also helped to prepare Mn/DOT’s successful application for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to advance the Madison (Wisconsin) to Twin Cities section of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative.

The Plan was one of 11 recipients of a 2010 Federal Highway Administration Transportation Planning Excellence Award. The plan was recognized for its innovations in Freight Planning, Planning Leadership, and Public Involvement and Outreach.