ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation today announced the suspension of its work on the proposed high-speed rail line project, Zip Rail, between the Twin Cities metropolitan area and Rochester pending action by the Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority next week.

MnDOT also announced today that it has issued permits to the North American High Speed Rail company which will begin a feasibility study in the near future for a high speed rail line in southeastern Minnesota.

Zip Rail was initiated as a partnership between MnDOT and Olmsted County to explore the feasibility of a high-speed rail connection that would serve anticipated travel demand between the state’s two largest economies. The recent completion of the Zip Rail Alternatives Analysis report identified eight possible alternatives; however, considerable additional public resources would be required in order for MnDOT to study the alternatives.

The Zip Rail’s projected benefits to the state include the creation of more than 11,000 new jobs and more than $1.6 billion per year in increased economic output, including individual income, tax revenue and user benefits.

North American High Speed Rail – a private company – has expressed interest in building high-speed rail between the Twin Cities and Rochester using private funds. MnDOT announced today that it has approved permits for the company to begin studying plans for a future high speed rail line in southeastern Minnesota.

The NAHSR proposal would not require public funds to move forward. However, MnDOT officials noted that any high-speed rail project that is developed will need to follow federal and state regulations and provide public participation opportunities during development

The NAHSR project is initially much different than the proposed Zip Rail plan, which MnDOT suspended its work on this week. NAHSR will further define the proposed project’s potential benefits to the region and state as it conducts its own feasibility study.