Taking up all that railroad track may have been a little short-sighted in terms of public transit.
Talk continues regarding possibilities for light rail service. Roger Germann, Region 5 director of regional transportation initiatives, went to Washington, D.C., last fall representing several communities expressing a request for passenger rail service.
One request was to extend passenger rail to Little Falls and relieve congestion on Highway 10. There may be passengers for central Minnesota and lakes area recreation areas. And passengers may come from a growing number of telecommuters who travel once or twice a week to the Twin Cities for business.
Germann said those numbers may be one way to justify ridership on a rail service, but people will have to take the initiative to leave their cars behind. It may take another generation to set that idea of every individual in a separate vehicle aside.
For supporters of rail service, the discontinued passenger cars that went by the wayside in the 1950s and 1960s was short-sighted. Germann said one option using existing lines could be a return of the single-rail unit of the type he remembered as the dinky galloping goose that traveled from Staples to Duluth daily.
"Why couldn't those kind of units be brought back?" Germann asked. But the idea of light rail also opens up questions of another kind and of another cost. Miles of former rail beds now are home to in-line skaters, bicyclists and snowmobiles. To re-create a right-of-way or rail corridor to Brainerd may be too expensive. One option suggested was a spur from Staples to Brainerd.
"Maybe we were all too hasty in allowing railroads to stop running back then. We're back to thinking rail may work in these areas," Germann said.
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