On Tuesday, we posted in Who saw this coming down the track? MnDOT, Olmsted Co discuss privatizing Zip Rail work:
In Report zeroes in on eight possible high-speed rail routes, the Post Bulletin's Heather Carlson reports:
. . . Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown said it appears likely that public work on the project will cease, and it will be up to North American High Speed Rail to make high-speed rail between Rochester and the Twin Cities a reality.
"It's not going to happen any other way. This will not be a public project. Can't afford it. Nobody's got the money," he said.
Brown added that he believes the money spent so far on environmental analysis was worthwhile. He said that work helped raise the visibility of the project, helping to attract the interest of the private sector.
He added, "That work won't be wasted. It won't disappear. It will be used by the group that takes it over and runs with it."
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) issued a press release, MnDOT suspends its work on Zip Rail project, in which we read this:
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) today announced the suspension of its work on the proposed high-speed rail line project, Zip Rail, between the Twin Cities metropolitan area and Rochester, Minn., pending action by the Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority next week.
MnDOT also announced today that it has issued permits to the North American High Speed Rail company which will begin a feasibility study in the near future for a high speed rail line in southeastern Minnesota.
Suspending work on Zip Rail project
Zip Rail was initiated as a partnership between MnDOT and Olmsted County to explore the feasibility of a high-speed rail connection that would serve anticipated travel demand between the state’s two largest economies. . . .
North American High Speed Rail exploring privately-developed rail line
North American High Speed Rail – a private company – has expressed interest in building high-speed rail between the Twin Cities and Rochester using private funds. MnDOT announced today that it has approved permits for the company to begin studying plans for a future high speed rail line in southeastern Minnesota.
The NAHSR proposal would not require public funds to move forward. However, MnDOT officials noted that any high-speed rail project that is developed will need to follow federal and state regulations and provide public participation opportunities during development
The NAHSR project is initially much different than the proposed Zip Rail plan, which MnDOT suspended its work on this week. NAHSR will further define the proposed project’s potential benefits to the region and state as it conducts its own feasibility study.
So earlier planning work paid by the public will and won't be handed over to private hands. We'll keep an eye out, if indeed that can still be done.
William Hume: Bus Rapid Transit is a better idea
Another informed suggestion emerged Wednesday in a letter to the editor of the Zumbrota News-Record from William Hume, retired infrastructure land surveyor/civil engineer writes about transit issues nationally.
In Bus Rapid Transit is a better idea, Hume writes:
Zumbrota would become a blast-zone for eminent domain should the monster named “ZIP” ever come to life! The creature’s girth is at least a 100-ft width of right-of-way slashing its tail all up and down Hwy 52. Private property along the highway supporting businesses, farms, and roadside would be consumed.
ZIP would be built to last. The best approach to the monster is stopping it dead in its tracks, as it emerges, a complete derailment.
Minnesota’s current high-speed rail proposal, the so-called ZIP Rail is planned as a future constructed transit just to bring workers from the Twin Cities to Rochester with a TC station, Rochester station and nothing mentioned in between, not Zumbrota.
Other vibrant cities along 52 in between are completely left out. This is a very bad idea, a ridiculous plan that violates all practicality regarding the function of inter-city high-speed rail. Efficient passenger rail design is all about connectivity, gathering many stops, cities, towns, and villages. General consensus with high-speed rail designers is a route 300 to 500 miles in length serving everyone along the way. That distance would operate with urban American efficiency.
ZIP at about 80 to 90 miles long does not qualify.
ZIP is a classic special interest project, thought up by Destination Medical Center (DMC) Mayo, and Rochester business visionaries. Joining the gang are progressive liberals from the state capital, looking for more costume jewelry with a massive price to hang on taxpayers.
In my opinion Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), would stop in Zumbrota on a 24-hour schedule, adding flexibility for citizens of Zumbrota working in TC or Rochester and all stops in between. New high-tech bus coaches with wi-fi, super comfortable body contoured seats, pull down lap top trays and even multi-media screens on the seat backs...Wow a rider wouldn’t want to get off it’s so comfortable.
Let's build it! BRT from several stations in the TC south suburbs and several more in Rochester, with each city in between served with new completely weather sealed climate controlled solar powered glass and steel stations located on new exit ramps off of 52 with large park-and-ride vehicle lots.
BRT on this route serves everybody. Costs to build the upgrades for Hwy 52 include new road overpass cloverleaf ramps and the elimination of stop light intersections for a very safe new Hwy 52. Zumbrota could be the stop with a fantastic road spanning a Hwy 52 overhead travel stop elevated with fuel, food and trip-related retail stores. That would be at least 500 new jobs for Zumbrota. Throw in the bus fleet, Hwy 52 express lane upgrades, and new lighting and safety features for 100 miles of America’s newest and most innovative road-tech for about one and a half billion.
The monster ZIP would cost approximately 15 billion dollars! Genuine high-speed rail with world-class design features supporting at least 186-mph average speeds, that is the qualifying time to be accepted in the high-speed rail race!
ZIP is an astronomically expensive transit system proposal, constructed, and operated by the state. A rail only purpose high-speed rail bridge over the Minnesota river would be about $2 billion just itself. Add in full route underground intrusion detection cables and weather fencing, a full distance access and service road for the double-track run, and massive landform excavation and bridging, as zero-flat grade is necessary. Every road, bike and walkpath has to have its own underpass or bridge over. No pedestrian, vehicle or anything can intrude on its right-of-way. Overhead electric cantenary and track de-icing for Minnesota would create this cost of 15 billion and then hundreds of millions a year in operating funds. Minnesota taxpayers pay every day for this ZIP. There would be no profit from the fare box tickets, as this is a socialized state transit system. It is a massive money loser just like TC light-rail and the NorthStar.
Bus Rapid Transit looks good for all, and huge for Zumbrota.
We look forward to the Twin Cities media continuing to report that it's just yokel NIMBYs opposing the Zip Rail or private Velos line, rather than citizens who've looked carefully over the plans--and who might even offer potential reasonable and inclusive alternatives for transit to Rochester.
Image: A postcard of Zumbrota in 1912. Via Lakes and Woods.
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