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LET It's obvious majority want DM#x0026;E; settled

By Gerry Bermel

How many more taxpayer dollars? Another million, $5 million, or $10 million? If that's the mandate the citizens of Rochester give to their elected officials then the fight should continue.

If that mandate has been given, has it been by the loudest and most influential or has it been by the majority of the citizens? The few polls and surveys that have been done seem to show the citizens favor negotiations with DM&E,; not a court battle.

Speaking of spending tax money, why would Olmsted County even consider entering into any litigation on the DM&E; matter? Is it the strongly held personal opinion of a few of our elected officials and some county administration that is driving these considerations? These folks are supposed to be representing the citizens of the county and doing the will of the people measured in majority.

Do any of us honestly think the majority of voting citizens in Olmsted county desire any tax dollars to be spent on litigation fighting the Surface Transportation Board regarding its decision on the DM&E?; I would encourage every township board and every small city in our county to pass resolutions absolutely opposing any more county tax dollars being spent fighting the DM&E; project.

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Also, I hope the citizens will call their commissioners and give them the same message.

A recent letter in the Post-Bulletin indicated a concern of DM&E; officials being dishonest regarding the use of public money for the railroad upgrade. I attended at least a few meetings when the question of public money being used for the project was raised. This question was in the context of government help or subsidies similar to what Amtrak receives.

It was not in reference to possible transportation grants or road crossing projects, which typically and historically are done cooperatively by the railroad company involved and the government with jurisdiction over that particular roadway. It is reassuring to know that Minnesota Department of Transportation officials have publicly stated the DM&E; is one of the most cooperative railroads in the state to work with on these projects. DM&E; officials were not lying when they said public money was not being sought to do the upgrade and expansion.

There has been some concern regarding Rep. Gil Gutknecht's response to the DM&E; proposal. Is he being criticized because he has not bought into the hype and propaganda regarding this project? I for one applaud his objectivity and leadership. In August 1998 Gutknecht hosted an excellent and educational congressional hearing in Rochester, bringing major stakeholders to the table to begin to work through the many and complicated issues regarding the DM&E; proposal. It would have been great had our community built on that type of activity.

Sometimes some things don't make sense. Like a city concerned about safety, fighting a proposal that would make an old unsafe railroad into a new and safe railroad. A city that burns coal in its power plant fighting a proposal that would bring cleaner and cheaper coal much more efficiently to its plant.

The Mayo Clinic, which recently contracted for large quantities of cheap and efficient steam heat produced by burning coal, fighting the proposal the would make the railroad safe, modern, and efficient that gets that coal to the plant that produces the steam. The Mayo Clinic administration that is concerned about the hazardous materials that would be transported on the new track while the old worn out and unsafe track carries those same materials.

Also, more hazardous material travels by truck near clinic facilities daily than by train, and statistics show that trains have a much better safety record than trucks hauling those materials. If the shipping of these types of materials is of that great of concern, then we best sort out and re-route them off of U.S. highways 52 and 63.

It's difficult to figure out the county that would fight the rebuilding of a railroad to make it safer but at the same time do all the things that they are against while rebuilding roads to make them safer, for example, 40th Street Southwest.

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One last thing. Ed Fischer was wrong in his cartoon in the Feb. 7 edition of the P-B. The Mayo Clinic won't have to put its statue across the tracks to stop the trains. Sen. Mark Dayton has already spoken to reserve that position.

Bermel of Eyota was part of a city-county task force that discussed the DM&E; project.

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