Bluestem Prairie had noted on January 9 in Not nicknamed Zombie Ziprail for nothing: NAHSRG rebranded as Minnesota Corridor, that there was nothing but a home page on a new webpage, and that Chief Strategist Wendy Meadley had left the building, according to her Linked In page. And this:
Once upon a time, there was a public project (Ziprail). Once upon a time, North American High Speed Rail put together a business plan (later redacted). Once upon a time, it was going to use investment by EB-5 visa holders to help finance the high speed rail project. Like the unfortunate creatures in the Walking Dead, this thing seems to have less and less meat on its bones with each new rising.
Now Heather Carlson reports in the Post Bulletin article, High-speed rail at crossroads?:
That skepticism comes as the status of the private company that had been pushing the project is unclear. The North American High Speed Rail Group had been leading the charge to do something never before done in America — privately fund a high-speed rail line.The company estimated the $4.2 billion rail line could make the trip from Rochester to Bloomington within 29 minutes.
But questions are swirling as to what has happened to the ail group. Visitors to North American High Speed Rail Group's website are instead referred to a website for "Minnesota Corridor." Wendy Meadley, who served as the rail group's chief strategy officer, states on her LinkedIn page that she left the company in October. She also terminated her status as a lobbyist for the rail group on Nov. 2, according to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
Meadley declined a request for comment.
Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said the agency has not heard from the rail group or "anyone on a related topic for a number of months."
This lack of activity might encourage some to suggest that proposed legislation should be dropped as does one Rochester Republican, Carlson reports:
Some fellow Republican lawmakers are speaking out against the legislation — not because of what is in the bill but because they do not believe the high-speed rail project is going to happen.
"It seems like a waste of energy. It's probably great for voters in their districts. I just don't see it having any real impact," said Rep. Nels Pierson, R-Rochester.
However, Pierson has a past with rail projects in them, so his "pay no attention to the zombie train" attitude may not be the best advice to project opponents. On the PB's Political Notebook blog, Carlson reported in Rochester Realtor to announce run for Benson's seat that "According to his LinkedIn profile, he has also served as a consultant for the Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance." (The information is no longer on his Linked In page). In 2011, the Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance blog announced Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance Unveils Zip Rail.
Moreover, Pierson "continued study of Zip Rail to connect Rochester to Minneapolis," according to the Post Bulletin endorsement of his candidacy for the state house in 2014. We're guessing he's not on the same page as Draz.
Carlson reports that project opponents are vigilant:
Opponents of the proposed high-speed rail line are also left wondering what happened to the rail group. Heather Arndt, co-chairwoman of Citizens Concerned About Rail, said it has been nearly a year since she talked to Meadley. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the private company, she said it is important rail opponents keep up the fight.
"Until it's good, dead, buried and six feet under, we're staying engaged," Arndt said. "We're continuing to work with elected officials at all levels and stay engaged and watch it. These are our homes and our communities and businesses and we are not going to walk away from it while it could still come back around."
Sound strategy, given the fact that this zombie project has yet to experience clear head shot. Since first learning about concerns about the project from Minnesota Farmers Union members while serving as a member of the group's policy committee, this seemed like a "flyover" project that positioned convenience over local landowners and communities needs and rights.
Read about the legislation against the project in the Post Bulletin article.
Image: Marge Simpson found the passenger rail project office in the cartoon series. It's been a bit harder pinning down the folks behind the southeastern Minnesota private rail project.