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High-speed rail study rolls on

While construction on the Zip Rail line may be years away, progress has to start somewhere.

There were several meetings this week several to share information on a planning study, being done on the high-speed passenger rail project that could connect the Twin Cities and Rochester.

Minnesota Department of Transportation director Dan Krom said the goal of these meetings, and others that will be held later in the year, is to engage the public.

"We want to create a dialogue with the public. This is a very long process but we want people to stay involved and engaged," said Krom.

Zip Rail will be an approximately 100-mile corridor that will offer high-speed passenger rail service, meaning trains would travel in excess of 150 miles-per-hour. To accommodate the higher speed trains, the rail line would be independent of existing tracks.

So far five possible routes have been identified to connect the two communities. The Zip Rail corridor includes Olmsted, Dodge, Goodhue, Rice, Dakota, Ramsey and Hennepin counties. All proposed routes have the line going through Rosemount. Some of the routes travel into St. Paul, while others go on to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

Larger scope plans call for the rail line to be part of a larger network that would include routes to other Minnesota communities, Wisconsin and Chicago.

The process is in the feasibility stage. A two-year planning study got under way earlier this year and includes a basic environmental review or Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement.

Preliminary feasibility studies have shown the project is economically and technically possible, said Krom. He said the goal of the current study is to move the project forward to the engineering stage.

Krom said the environmental review will look at the possible impacts of the rail line and what mitigation efforts would be needed.

Throughout the process, Krom said, residents and city and county officials will be updated and asked to weigh in. High speed rail could offer a number of benefits including getting people around in a quick and efficient manner. As they move through the process, it will be important to teach residents about the project, he said.

One of the biggest obstacles, he said, is changing people's misperceptions. Once people learn details about the line, such as that it will not use existing tracks and there won't be any at-grade crossings at roads, they are generally more supportive of the concept.

The city has assigned planner Jason Lindahl to represent Rosemount as the project moves forward. Lindahl has been monitoring the progress. The project could affect Rosemount in a big way but at this point, Lindahl said, the city feels it's best to watch and see what comes out of the feasibility study.

To learn more about the Zip Rail project visit the website

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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