Zip Rail halted, but Dodge County keeps up the fight
MANTORVILLE — Even though the project appears to have been shelved, Dodge County officials still express their continuing opposition to the high-speed, or Zip Rail, proposal.
The Dodge County Rail Authority restated its 2014 resolution during a March 14 meeting, with members expressing their disapproval for Zip Rail after a brief discussion on where the proposed project now stands.
County Administrator Jim Elmquist presented a resolution for the authority's consideration regarding the Zip Rail Scoping Study prepared by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The study pertained to two different routes for the high-speed rail line, on which trains can travel up to 220 miles per hour.
Dodge County officials noted that the study was never completed and was instead "shelved" in 2015, when there appeared to be low political support at the state Legislature for the rail project.
Commissioner Tim Tjosaas, chairman of the authority, said that concerns about Zip Rail are that the project would split Dodge County in half, potentially restricting many roads and farms and causing "undue hardship" on residents and farmers.
"We see little economic benefit to Dodge County, for as it stands today, there are no stops nor stations that would be in the county allowing people to access the rail," he said. "Today, all we would have is a rail line that restricts the uses of the land and roadways near it."
Olmsted County suspended work on Zip Rail in February 2016. In its place, a private company, the North American High Speed Rail group, expressed interest in building a $4.2 billion rail line connecting Rochester and the Twin Cities.
The company later renamed itself the Minnesota Corridor Project.
What's going on now
For now, a measure that is part of the House Republicans' tax bill calls for a rail funding ban. That measure has advanced through the House and was halted in the Senate. This legislation prohibits use of any public funds on the rail project. Its author is Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a Mazeppa Republican.
The measure also prohibits use of eminent domain for the rail line, and requires developers of projects estimated to cost more than $1 billion to purchase environmental insurance.