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The Twin Cities and Western Railroad Co. (TC&W) is a key player in the economic health of rural Minnesota, according to a study recently conducted by market research firm KlasRobinson Q.E.D.Based on a confidential survey of the short line's largest customers, the study shows that TC&W's 20 largest shippers generate more than $4 billion in combined annual sales and ship more than 37 percent of those goods via the railroad's line. Over the past two decades, the shippers have invested more than $500 million in production, processing and shipping facilities along the line, TC&W officials said in a press release.The short line's role in regional transportation has become more important as planning for the Southwest Light Rail Transitway (SLRT) project has accelerated, they said. The SLRT, or Southwest Corridor, is a proposed 15.8-mile, double-track light-rail line running from downtown Minneapolis through several suburbs.The proposed relocation of the railroad's line as part of the SLRT plan fails to address safety, efficiency and cost concerns, TC&W officials believe. Under federal law, the interests of freight-rail operators and shippers must be considered in the development of passenger-rail service, they said.The federal policy "preserves freight rail transportation, but more importantly, preserves thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of investment by rural businesses that rely on us to get their goods to market safely and cost-effectively," said TC&W President Mark Wegner.Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak recently renewed his call for a new Metropolitan Council study examining all options to reroute freight-rail traffic from the Kenilworth Corridor. The current plan calls for operating light-rail trains underground in a shallow tunnel through the corridor; another alternative would have diverted freight traffic in that corridor to St. Louis Park and kept light-rail operations above ground, the mayor said.However, additional study on ways to reroute freight-rail traffic isn't a viable option, Metropolitan Council officials believe.
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