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Bypass opponents call attention to Nebraska settlement

CORRECTION RAN THURSDAY (8/15/02)

A story about the Citizens Against Rochester's Bypass on Page 2B Wednesday incorrectly described Wichita's location. Wichita is in Kansas. Also, the settlement Wichita reached was with the Union Pacific Railroad.

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CORRECTION RAN TUESDAY (8/20/02)

A story on Page 2B Wednesday implied that Art Reckinger of Rochester is a member of the Citizens Against Rochester's Bypass organization. Reckinger says he isn't a member.

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By Lanier Frush Holt

lholt@postbulletin.com

Citizens Against Rochester's Bypass say they have the "smoking gun" that should force Rochester and Olmsted County out of their lawsuits against the Dakota, Minnesota &; Eastern Railroad.

Retired IBM engineer Art Reckinger shared information at Tuesday's county board meeting showing Wichita, Neb., had successfully negotiated a settlement with the South Dakota-based railway in large part because it would be cheaper than ongoing litigation.

"It is key to understand that the situations of Wichita and Rochester are basically the same, i.e. impacts due to increased train traffic," he wrote in a letter read to the county.

At a news conference this morning, Kathy King, chairwoman for Citizens Against Rochester's Bypass described the letter as a "smoking gun" and said it should raise questions in everyone's mind about Rochester's legal strategy. "We were told Wichita was the model for Rochester's challenge," she said.

Rochester Mayor Chuck Canfield said Wichita received $25 million through the negotiated settlement with the DM&E; and federal Surface Transportation Board. "We want more because we have a better case," he said.

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City Attorney Terry Adkins said the mitigation ordered by the Surface Transportation Board to Wichita is insufficient to begin to cover the adverse effects increased railroad traffic would have on Rochester.

"Without regard to any case that has happened in the past, we're looking at inconsistent statements and inaccurate information (regarding) what we have now in terms of geology under the tracks today, vibration and noise, and what will happen after we add 34 coal trains to the equation," he said. "Our statement is simple: How you can you, the STB, order mitigation when the report in which you're relying is so flawed?"

Olmsted County recently tabled discussions on their pending legal actions. The county had filed a separate lawsuit to address air quality issues surrounding the railroad's proposed upgrade to carry coal from Wyoming to the Mississippi River.

The county board does not anticipate changing its course of action.

"I think we've been moving forward in a positive direction since day one in getting our issues address," said Commissioner Paul Wilson. "I appreciate any additional information Mr. Reckinger provided, but I don't think that changes our direction in any way."

Commissioner Kamper agrees.

"We made a carefully chosen decision a few months ago and I don't see us changing course now," she said. "I think Rochester's position is a lot different than Wichita's and I just don't see us changing our position."

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