County to vote on abandoned rail corridor

Published 9:00 am Sunday, November 2, 2014

Freeborn County commissioners are slated to vote Tuesday on the $1.1 million purchase agreement for the abandoned Union Pacific rail line from Albert Lea to Hartland.

John Kluever

John Kluever

The closing on the sale is scheduled for later this year, upon approval of the agreement by the commissioners, said Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever.

Commissioners hope to turn the land into a multi-use trail.

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The county has been working to acquire the land from Union Pacific since 2010, when Union Pacific officials sent out a letter to county, state and federal officials informing them of their proposed plan to abandon the line. The line had not been used for several years.

Though a majority of the 12-mile line is outside Albert Lea, it does slice through a good portion of the city.

The route starts near Hardeeā€™s and intersects with the existing Front Street bike lanes near Lou-Rich. The bike lanes connect to the Blazing Star Trail at Frank Hall Park. That six-mile trail allows people to walk or bike to Myre-Big Island State Park.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to extend the Blazing Star Trail to Hayward and eventually to Austin to connect with the Shooting Star Trail.

Contractors removed the rails and ties along the corridor in 2011, and in the months since, Freeborn County officials have been in negotiations with Union Pacific.

The $1.1 million purchase price will be paid through state and federal grants already obtained.

The completed trail is projected to bolster property values and make adjacent properties easier to sell.