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New report: DM#x0026;E; effects to be dire

Potential problems for Olmsted County listed

By Lanier Holt

lholt@postbulletin.com

The quality of life for Olmsted County residents would be damaged if the Dakota, Minnesota &; Eastern Railroad project goes forward, according to a report released today by county officials.

The county paid the Ohio State University Strategy Store $50,000 to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the county's economic impact on southeastern Minnesota, including Dodge, Fillmore, Mower, Wabasha and Winona counties.

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The DM&E; is planning a $1.5 billion expansion that would allow it to haul Wyoming coal through South Dakota and southern Minnesota, ending at Winona. The project, which received federal approval in January, calls for as many as 30-40 high-speed coal trains traveling through Rochester each day.

If that happens, it would inevitably undermine the quality of life that the community has worked hard to maintain, the report says.

Mayo Clinic has long been outspoken in its opposition of DM&E,; joining the city of Rochester in a lawsuit hoping to stop the railroad's expansion. The report says it's not alarmist to conclude that Mayo will decrease its investment in Olmsted County if the project is built.

The clinic says it could see a 1 percent loss in revenue if the DM&E; moves forward. The report says a 2 percent decrease in in-state patients at Mayo would cost the region more than 500 jobs and would cost the county economy about $20 million annually.

Nearly 35,000 of the county's 40,000 jobs are in health care or computer and related products.

The project would also damage the county's high-tech sector, the report says. A high quality of life is one of the most important attributes in sustaining a high-tech economy, according to the report.

The DM&E; upgrade will make Olmsted County a less desirable community to live in, especially for those considering moving to the area, the report says.

Richard Devlin, Olmsted County administrator, said Monday the county's economy depends on its ability to attract and keep quality professionals. The DM&E; expansion would make that job harder.

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"We'll have a dirty downtown if the trains run through Rochester," he said. In other cities, coal trains add so much dust to the air that "people who live three to four blocks from coal trains can't hang their laundry outside," he said.

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