Today's Strib reports that legislators are looking at redeveloping a former freight rail line into a passenger rail line between Minneapolis and Willmar. Long-term thinking would have it be part of a line that would connect through to Sioux Falls, SD, thus making a cross-state feeder for a high-speed train from St. Paul to Chicago.
I have to admit, my first reaction was: Willmar? Really? Duluth makes sense, but Willmar? But some of the commenters over at the Strib note that people who live in that area actually do commute to the Twin Cities frequently for work-related trips (not to mention people in communities between the Cities and Willmar, like Delano and Cokato). The other thought is that opening up that line would possibly bring new life to the western part of the state, expanding employment and populations.
Our family has vacationed in the Willmar/Spicer area a couple of times, and one of the things we enjoyed about it was how quiet it was, mercifully free of the overbuilding that's happening in the Brainerd area. So, on a selfish note, I wonder if a successful train line to Willmar would ultimately spoil that aspect of the region; yet if it benefits the residents, I'd be a spoilsport to speak against it.
Given how long it will take any rail plan to come to fruition, however, I'd suggest that if you like quiet lakes with mom-and-pop cabin resorts, now's the time to take a vacation west.