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University of Minnesota Extension

Economic contribution of the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority rail line

Key findings for communities

  • In 2014, the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority (MVRRA) and Minnesota Prairie Line Inc. (MPL) spent $2.5 million to operate in the region, including $1.2 million in labor income.
  • In 2014, shippers on the MVRRA rail line made an estimated $331.7 million in sales directly tied to the rail line. These sales are associated with an estimated 390 jobs and $40.4 million of labor income. In total, businesses shipping on the rail line made $1.8 billion in sales in 2014.
  • In 2015, the MPL and MVRRA invested $1.6 million in improvements to the rail line, including a bridge replacement, box culverts, and improved rail line.
  • In 2014, the MVRRA rail line generated an estimated total of $447.9 million of activity in the economies of Carver, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, and Yellow Medicine counties.

About this study

The Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority (MVRRA), a public entity, owns 94 miles of Class III short-line railroad in southern Minnesota. The rail track stretches from Hanley Falls in the west to Norwood Young America in the east. Operated by the Minnesota Prairie Line Inc. (MPL), the line connects with the Twin Cities and Western (TC&W), providing shippers on the line with access to all major Class I railroads operating in the Twin Cities. Shippers, by extension, have access to major markets on both U.S. coasts and internationally to Mexico and Canada. MPL also performs general maintenance and repair projects on the line.

The MVRRA views rail service as an important part of the regional economy. Thus, MVRRA commissioned University of Minnesota Extension to conduct an economic contribution analysis. The direct effect of the rail line was calculated by assessing three parts of rail activities — the operations of the rail line itself, the value of shipper sales dependent on the rail line, and expenditures for rail line improvements.

In 2014, MVRRA rail line operations contributed an estimated $3.4 million in economic activity, including 25 jobs and approximately $1.4 million in labor income in the five-county region. Shippers on the MVRRA rail line contributed an estimated $444.5 million of economic activity, including 960 jobs and $64.6 million in labor income in 2014.

In 2015, investments in rail improvements contributed an estimated $2.1 million in economic activity, including 10 jobs and $600,000 in labor income.

More about this report

Read full report (PDF)


Brigid Tuck, Senior Economic Impact Analyst, Extension; Neil Linscheid, Educator, Extension; Gabriel Appiah, Community Economics Intern, Extension

Reviewed in 2016

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