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The Rochester - Twin Cities Rail Corridor (Zip Rail): if becoming more real then what?


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A lot of speculation still at this point. If becoming more real, how does ZIP rail end points get connected to Rochester transit system and DMC transportation network.

 

PB Story 2016-06-26

PB Story 2016-06-26

It's full steam ahead for a private rail company looking to build a high-speed rail line from Rochester to the Twin Cities.

North American High Speed Rail Group's Chief Manager Wendy Meadley said a preliminary study of the possible route has not turned up any major problems.

"Right now, I don't see any final barriers that would stop the project from going forward," Meadley said.

The company also wants to incorporate freight into its plan and is considering building four stations along the line, in addition to a maintenance facility. The ultimate goal remains extending the rail line to Chicago.

North American High Speed Rail Group is seeking to do something never before done in America — build a high-speed rail line financed entirely with private money. The Bloomington-based company has proposed building a $4.2 billion elevated rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities that would run along existing highways, including U.S. Highway 52.

The project has faced fierce criticism from some landowners who live along the proposed corridor. Mazeppa Republican Rep. Steve Drazkowski said he's seen no indication that opposition is dying down.

"The people don't see a need for it," Drazkowski said.

But Meadley insists the company is making headway when it comes to convincing city and county officials to be open-minded about the project. She said the company will be looking to build a maintenance facility halfway along the line.

"That (maintenance facility) could be placed mid-corridor, so I think there are people in the counties and cities along the line that are open to exploring that before they condemn it because they want to see what the opportunities are," Meadley said.

Seeking $50 million from investors

The Minnesota Department of Transportation granted the rail group miscellaneous work permits on Feb. 1 that allowed the company to move ahead with its preliminary study. The permits expire at the end of July and enable the company to do non-invasive activities along Interstate 494, Minnesota Highway 55, U.S. Highway 52 and U.S. Highway 63.

Meadley said the preliminary study has not turned up any roadblocks to the project. The company is looking to move to phase two — raising up to $50 million from U.S. investors to fund a detailed feasibility study. The company has recently broadened its money raising efforts, reaching out to investors across the country.

"It can't all be funded out of Minnesota. It's going to have to be funded partially from Minnesota funds, but really it's a national project and you have to look at it from that perspective," she said.

Meadley said she is not sure how long it will take to raise those dollars. In the meantime, she said the company may seek to extend its MnDOT work permits.

High-speed freight

The company is also looking to incorporate freight for "small, high-value" items. She referenced the potential to ship packages to consumers same day via the rail line. Seeking to develop real estate in connection with the proposed rail line also remains a key part of the plan.

The company is in negotiations with two countries — China and Japan — over the potential of importing their high-speed rail technology for the project. Representatives from two other countries are flying in to meet with Meadley about the proposal.

The company is also considering building four stops along the line. One would be known as the "North Terminal" and would likely be built in Bloomington near the Minnesota-St. Paul International Airport. Another stop would be constructed in a southern metro suburb to allow commuters to hop aboard. Up for debate is whether to build one or two stations in Rochester — one downtown and another at the airport.

Rail and DMC

Bill Goins, a longtime Fed Ex employee who serves on the MInnesota Freight Advisory Commission, has been advising the rail group. He said it makes sense to consider building a high-speed rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities because of the massive Destination Medical Center economic development project. DMC is projected to add another 30,000 to 40,000 jobs in Rochester over the next 15 or 20 years. He said it's likely that some of those employees will live in the Twin Cities and commute to Rochester. That will put a heavy strain on the four-lane U.S. Highway 52, which is vital to commerce in the region.

"If we don't continue to be creative and innovative, we stand the chance of good companies, good employers saying, 'Hey, we could move to Denver or we could move to Beijing or we could move to Berlin' or whatever it might be, and our market loses," Goins said.

Mayo Clinic has long pushed for a high-speed rail connection between the Med City and the Twin Cities. Asked about the latest proposal, Mayo Clinic spokesman Karl Oestreich said in a statement, "We are pleased with the private investor interest and look forward to their analysis of this potential project."

Concerns about rail remain

Drazkowski said he remains deeply concerned about the project. One of his biggest worries is the potential for the private company to seize landowners' property via eminent domain.

"I struggle with the idea that a private company is going to eminent domain private property. That is very troubling and something I think we certainly need to address in law," he said.

Asked whether the company plans to use eminent domain, Meadley said that would be a last resort.

"Eminent domain is the last choice. Our first choice and primary approach is to stay within the right of way, lease air rights. That's our desire," she said.

Rochester DFL Rep. Kim Norton said she is excited to hear the project is moving forward.

"I understand the concerns of people whose personal property is affected, but I also think infrastructure for the country and moving ahead has to happen," she said. "Those families or individuals need to be treated fairly and they need to be listened to, and as concerns can be addressed, they should be."

 

 

 


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DMC Impact(s): Livable City

PlanScape(s): Economic Development ; Transportation

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Date: 2016/06/26

Last Modification Date: 2016-10-10T21:14:49-05:00

Last Modified by: support

Source: openBEAM.net

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