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Arguments in DM#x0026;E; appeal will be heard in November

From staff reports

Federal judges will hear Rochester's and Mayo Clinic's second appeal against the Dakota, Minnesota &; Eastern Railroad upgrade project about two months from now.

In an order issued Tuesday, the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments in St. Louis for the week of Nov. 13-17. An exact date is not yet determined.

"It's possible they could have a decision this year, but I'm still looking for it in early '07," said Rochester City Attorney Terry Adkins.

Rochester, Mayo Clinic, Olmsted County and the Sierra Club all filed appeals of the federal Surface Transportation Board's Feb. 15 approval of the DM&E; project proposal.

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The STB issued its approval on that date following a court order resulting from an earlier appeal by many of the same parties appealing the decision this time. The STB previously approved the project in 2002, after considering it during a lengthy public process that began in 1998.

The DM&E; proposes a $6 billion upgrade of its 600-mile line through Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming, including a 260-mile extension to coal mines in Wyoming's Powder River Basin.

It would be the largest U.S. rail-expansion project in a century and would bring DM&E; from Class II to Class I status, making it one of the nation's six largest railroads.

Mayo Clinic and Rochester-area governments oppose the project because they foresee increased rail traffic and noise and a heightened risk of catastrophic derailments or other accidents.

The railroad alleges those fears are overstated and posits that the line would be safer with new rail than with the current 80-year-old rail, even if trains pass at higher speeds.

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