High speed growth, high speed rail?

February 23, 2012

The southeastern corner has experienced rapid growth with the recent release of the 2011 Census data. Nearly every town and city in the Hanover region has experienced vast growth, including Steinbach as the third fast growing census agglomeration in Canada; and La Broquerie.

What does this all have to do with high speed rail? Peter Lacey the western vice-president for Transport Action Canada recently issued an article in the Winnipeg Free Press together with Jeff Lowe. In this op-ed they announced how Minnesota is in the opening procedures of pursuing a high speed rail link of 175 km/h between Minneapolis and Duluth.

These two suggest that Manitoba themselves should not be left out of the conversation. They look at whether or not the CN rail link between Winnipeg and Duluth itself should be upgraded to a passenger high speed rail link. In doing so it would allow Manitoba another valuable international link. They particularly highlight that by having passenger service on a Winnipeg, Duluth, Minneapolis link would vastly boost tourism not only to Winnipeg, but the francophone communities of La Broquerie and Ste. Anne, as well as the Mennonite community here in Steinbach.

Though realistically the tourism boost would only be moderate at first, if the communities here adapted the economies, there could be further significant boosts. Beyond this, the high speed rail service could function as part of the Winnipeg commuter shed. With service running from La. Broquerie to Winnipeg as part of a shorter stub commuter train, it could also vastly boost growth for those communities directly, as well as Steinbach, if proper shuttle service from stations in those towns linked with the city here.

Well this is admittedly a little pie in the sky at this moment, the fact remains that if indeed Minnesota pursues its option and Manitoba jumps on board, it opens up countless of opportunities that could further boost economic and population growth for this corner of the province. In addition it provides this prairie province and the entire southeast with a major international link that often isolates us in our way of thinking and dealing with our neighbours.

There is still plenty to pursue, such as whether CN would actually allow passenger service on its lines. However, it would require minimal investment above its current state that would allow the 175km/h passenger trains to run through according to Lacey. Given the massive economic boost for the province as a whole, it would be great for government officials to at least pursue investigation of the viability of the route, and open up to negotiations with Minnesota as they pursue their portion of the line. As Lacey ends with his article, with so many benefits and further possibilities, it would be extremely shortsighted on our part to not embark on at least a basic official study of viability.


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