8/20/2014 8:50:00 PM County to ZipRail backers: Don't cut our county in two
by Paul Martin
Goodhue County Board sent a clear message to Olmsted County, Mayo Health Systems and other boosters of the proposed Twin Cities to Rochester high speed rail line: we will not accept an alignment of the ZipRail project that "carves Goodhue County in two."
In a resolution hastily drafted by Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel and passed unanimously at the August 19 meeting, the Board went on record as opposing the proposed route that would follow Hwy 56 and an old railroad right of way. The move follows a packed July 31 public meeting in Kenyon which left the planners in no doubt about the strength of local opposition. Haste was needed because the Public Comment period ends shortly.
Project Has Changed Greatly since 2012
Rechtzigel noted that since the County was asked to support what was still a general proposal in early 2012, the project "has changed drastically in scope and impact." His resolution noted that no stops are now planned in the County, and there would be no direct benefit to the citizens of the County. Worse, numerous existing properties and farms would be divided, and numerous County and Township roads would be severed.
"Not Outside the Hwy 52 Right of Way"
The Board steered clear of the question of cost. "We have not researched that aspect," said Rechtizigel, "and I did not want the discussion to be sidetracked by it." It is clear that Goodhue County does not intend to bear any of the cost. "The issue of cost is for those who would have to open their purse," said Rechtzigel. They also stopped short of outright opposition, and stated instead "we would oppose .... a project located outside of the median of Hwy 52." This is because they have no control over the Hwy 52 right of way, which belongs to MnDot (Department of Transportation).
Local residents remain concerned. Heather Arndt, who farms in Hader, noted that the 200' corridor Zipline would not fit in the Hwy 52 median. In many places, it would require an elevated rail line, which would be very expensive and disruptive. The Board, however, decided to control what they can control. They made it clear that they do have authority not to allow any County Highway to be cut, and would use that authority. Townships have the same authority over Township roads, Rechtzigel noted.
Rechtzigel believes that the ZipRail planning team has noted the strength of opposition to their current plans from both the Board and area residents, and have gone off to think again. Commissioner Jim Bryant had a suggestion for them: "Let's get Hwy 52 up to Freeway standard before we think about building ZipRail."