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Today was the Zip Rail meeting at the Kenyon High School, and it was PACKED.  I printed up 80 flyers, but ran out and could have handed out another 80.  WOW!  It’s great to see people so interested.

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I’ve been learning about this project, and it takes some digging to get information.  My goal is to encourage people to ask questions, and where there’s the opportunity, to file comments.  In this case, we have until August 6, 2014, to send comments in for scoping on the “Tier 1″ EIS.  This means that we should tell them what all we think should be covered in the environmental review, and send the comments to:

Comments due by August  6, 2014.  Send comments to:

          info@goziprail.org         or

MN DOT Passenger Rail Office ATTN: Zip Rail
395 John Ireland Boulevard, MS 470
St. Paul, MN 55155
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What I’ve found is that it’s hard to find anything.  Start looking, and what do you find?  Zip!  The best information source is the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, and to look at their “Studies/White Papers” page.  I’m most interested in “Midwest” “HSR” (high speed rail) and “Economics,” and HERE IS THE RESULT for that.

Here is my favorite for basic information, it’s got some basic cost estimates, particularly on p. 105 of 151, for the Metro – Chicago route, take a quarter of that and it’s a good starting ballpark figure, just over $7 billion (the number I hear being thrown around is $1 billion, and no way, no how, so just pay no attention and do some digging):

Economic Impacts of High Speed Rail 2011

And some others:

ROCOG Presentation ZipRail_011714

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Zip Rail Report

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And remember, here is from the Minnesota Zip Rail site, their documents, sparse, but this is what we have:

Title Document Type Date Format File Size
Page size:

select
 10 items in 1 pages
Zip Rail Open House Flyer Public Meeting Materials Jul 16, 2014 icon 132 KB
Newsletter – July 2014 Newsletters Jul 07, 2014 icon 885 KB
Technical Advisory Committee Meeting No. 4 Other Jul 07, 2014 icon 5 MB
Zip Rail Scoping Package Reports Jul 07, 2014 icon 7 MB
Technical Advisory Committee Meeting No.3 Reports Oct 17, 2013 icon 3 MB
Draft Purpose and Need Statement Reports Oct 07, 2013 icon 634 KB
Public Involvement Plan Reports Jun 01, 2013 icon 4 MB
Notice of Intent Reports May 13, 2013 icon 28 KB
Technical Advisory Committee Meeting No.2 Reports Apr 04, 2013 icon 1 MB
Technical Advisory Committee Meeting No.1 Reports Feb 28, 2013 icon 1 MB

 

The Alabama Public Service Commission joining with the state’s representative to the Republican National Committee to object to EPA rules, “Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” he said.   The last two lines of this article say it all:

The press conference was held in the offices of the Alabama Coal Association.

The EPA hearing was to be held Tuesday at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center but has been relocated to the Omni Hotel because of a power outage.

This reminds me of the Mayor of Hoyt Lakes, who said in promotion of the Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project after a discussion of mercury, “Mercury?  We’re used to mercury here.”

And then there’s the “Obama war on coal” fiction — if only… but dream on.

Congressman Byrne joins fellow Republicans in denouncing Obama ‘war on coal’

The good news is that since the EPA hearing was moved to hotel, a building other than a federal building, the two ID requirement to enter a federal building will not apply.

Here’s the full article, read it and snort — if it weren’t so tragically absurd:

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Pray God blocks EPA plan, chief regulator of Alabama utilities tells consumers

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Alabama’s coal industry will lose jobs and consumers will see their utility bills increase should the EPA implement proposed regulations on coal-fired power plants, Alabama regulators said at a press conference in which they invoked the name of God in the fight over fossil fuels.

Two members of the Alabama Public Service Commission, a member-elect and an Alabama representative to the Republican National Committee said proposed EPA regulations that aim to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent represent “an assault on our way of life” and are a purposeful attempt by the Obama administration to kill coal-related jobs.

“We will not stand for what they are doing to our way of life in Alabama,” said PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. “We will take our fight to the EPA.”

Cavanaugh and several other Republican leaders from Alabama plan to offer testimony at an EPA hearing in Atlanta on Tuesday.

The EPA announced in June its intent to implement new standards meant to curb carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Such emissions are among the biggest contributors to global warming. According to EPA documents, the proposal would require Alabama to lower emissions from its coal-fired plants by 27 percent from 2012 levels.

A spokesman for Alabama Power Co., which has six coal-fired plants in the state, has said it’s too soon to know what action the utility would have to take to meet the new standards.

At their news conference today Cavanaugh and PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker invoked the name of God in stating their opposition to the EPA proposal. Beeker, a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God’s plan.

“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” he said.

Cavanaugh called on the people of the state to ask for God’s intervention.

“I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done,” she said.

Also speaking in opposition to the EPA plan were PSC Commissioner Jeremy Oden and Paul Reynolds, an Alabama representative to the Republican National Committee.

Oden said he believes the EPA has dramatically underestimated the economic impact that the proposed regulations will have, and that the 600-page proposal represents overreach on the part of the Obama administration. Reynolds said the Obama administration has more important issues with which to contend.

“The Obama administration should be concerned about a potential world at war instead of something dumb, like a war on coal,” he said. “What we’re dealing with is government run amok.” 

The press conference was held in the offices of the Alabama Coal Association.

The EPA hearing was to be held Tuesday at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center but has been relocated to the Omni Hotel because of a power outage.

 

Ya know, the weather couldn’t be any better.  Cool, sunny, but rainy enough, birds chirping, and the baby robins are growing:

 

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But this morning, it was a chorus of jangly rebar and jackhammers into the stone.  They’re working on the retaining wall now.  Piles of rebar line the first 30+ feet of Sturdevant, and a new addition that will probably increase our market value and assessment:

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It’s a bit scary how close they’ve dug in to the houses up on top of the hill, and now getting in there with jackhammers, oh my.  I would NOT want to live in one of those houses up on top.

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And down West, they’re experiencing the joy of sewer and water replacement that we went through for the past month now:

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GooseStep

Trying to figure out what kind of duck this quacks like!

In STrib: Suburbs skeptical of speedy Zip Rail

I get nervous where there’s something big proposed, but not much in the way of info.  I do care who owns and will own the project, where the money’s coming from (more massive subsidies of Rochester/Mayo?), potential isolation of people suddenly blocked off from their access roads, and no stops along the way so affected communities receive no benefit.  I think I’d prefer light rail, but ???  Need to know more.

The format of these meetings prevents you from asking important questions, speaking your mind, and making comments publicly so that we can share information and questions.  Public opinion is silenced. This is a NEPA process, MN EQB noticed, and should have a formal public hearing.

Comments due by August  6, 2014.  Send comments to:

          info@goziprail.org         or

MN DOT Passenger Rail Office ATTN: Zip Rail
395 John Ireland Boulevard, MS 470
St. Paul, MN 55155

Note there is an EXISTING COMMUTER BUS SYSTEM, serving many locations, which a “Zip Rail” would not.  Zip Rail would only serve 2-3 locations in the Metro.

What I do see is they’re trying hard to line everything up, here’s from a meeting with Secretary Ray La Hood (just to L of flag):

Mtg_SecLaHood

Now to start, full disclosure, I don’t really have a dog in this fight, and don’t know much about it, so I’ve started looking because this week are the scoping meetings on “Round 1″ of the environmental review.  Tonight was Rochester:

Rochester
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rochester Community and Technical College

Inver Grove Heights
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Inver Grove Community Center

Kenyon
Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kenyon-Wanamingo High School

All meetings 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Hey, Chuck Michael, long time since the Mesaba Project!!!

I’ve been hearing a lot about the “Zip Rail” through southern Minnesota, between the Metro and Rochester.  But when I look, I don’t see much.  This was selected as part of a “Midwest Corridor linking Chicago, IL with Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, Detroit, MI, St. Louis, MO, Indianapolis, IN, and the Quad Cities, IL/IA.”  We know our friend Scott Walker tanked it in Wisconsin, but Walker is not a permanent fixture so that could change.

My gut says that it’d be a lot easier to justify a Metro – Chicago train than Metro – Rochester.  Maybe it’s a step, but ???  As a stand-alone, it’s hard to get worked up about, considering what I imagine the impacts would be.

The most detailed report I’ve found so far is:

Economic Impacts of High Speed Rail (2011)

This is from Midwest High Speed Rail Assn.  There’s a lot on this site, like a Minnesota projects page.  One I didn’t know about, the Red Rock Corridor, from Hastings to St. Paul (which may have switched to a pus project).

Here’s the official Minnesota Zip Rail site, and there’s not as much:   www.goziprail.org

Here’s their “documents” page thus far for the Zip Line:

Title Document Type Date Format File Size
Zip Rail Open House Flyer Public Meeting Materials Jul 16, 2014 icon 132 KB
Newsletter – July 2014 Newsletters Jul 07, 2014 icon 885 KB
Technical Advisory Committee Meeting No. 4 Other Jul 07, 2014 icon 5 MB
Zip Rail Scoping Package Reports Jul 07, 2014 icon 7 MB
Technical Advisory Committee Meeting No.3 Reports Oct 17, 2013 icon 3 MB
Draft Purpose and Need Statement Reports Oct 07, 2013 icon 634 KB
Public Involvement Plan Reports Jun 01, 2013 icon 4 MB
Notice of Intent Reports May 13, 2013 icon 28 KB
Technical Advisory Committee Meeting No.2 Reports Apr 04, 2013 icon 1 MB
Technical Advisory Committee Meeting No.1 Reports Feb 28, 2013 icon 1 MB

There’s some reading to do.  But there are a few questions that are jumping out at me:

  • Ridership numbers – was the modeling done pre-economic crash?
  • What’s the ridership demographics?
  • What’s the cost – Alan said to figure $100 million/mile — is that accurate?
  • Who benefits from this, geographically, and specifically (is this for Mayo?  I have a hard time imagining sick people on the train.  I’d guess they’d fly in or take a limo.)
  • It’s supposed to be electric — above train or part of the track below (meaning lower profile?)
  • How will it sit on the land — in trench, or above ground, and how will it be fenced in/walled off?
  • What are predicted operating expenses?
  • Ownership is “flexible.”  The DOT now owns it but that could change, it could be federal, state, private, and/or a combo, and if so, what is impact on land acquisition if a private project?

So there’s a little to think about before the meetings tomorrow and Thursday evening!  Be there or be square!

Found in Finance & Commerce:

Zip Rail backers hope to lure private funder

By: Cali Owings June 5, 2014 3:03 pm 0

Passenger rail planners are narrowing down about 15 potential routes for a high-speed train between Rochester and the Twin Cities, aiming to capture the most riders and potentially pique the interest of a private funder.

The proposed train, known as the Zip Rail, would likely originate in downtown Rochester at the northwest quadrant of North Broadway and Civic Center Drive – blocks from the Mayo Clinic campus and the Mayo Civic Center that just received $35 million in state bonding for an expansion.

But planners are still weighing options for where the trains will go when they arrive in the Twin Cities – the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, St. Paul’s renovated Union Depot or both.

Though the recently completely Target Field Station in Minneapolis could serve passenger rail, it’s not under consideration at this point because it would be too difficult to bring trains through fully built-out parts of Minneapolis, according to Dan Krom, a project manager with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s passenger rail division. He said the project aims to take as little right of way as possible.

The airport and Union Depot connections would serve one of the line’s core ridership groups – a portion of Rochester’s 3 million annual visitors, said Chuck Michael, project manager for the Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority. Planners also are focusing on daily commuters, whose ranks are expected to grow as the $5.5 billion Destination Medical Center redevelopment around the Mayo Clinic gets underway, and on travelers from Rochester who would normally drive to catch a flight at MSP.

Understanding travel patterns and target ridership for the train will help market it to potential private partners, Michael said. Advocates hope to demonstrate that the baseline ridership could pay for the train’s operating costs and eventually generate income. The capital cost to build the train has been estimated at $1 billion.

“We think there’s a great potential on the private side,” he said.

Read the rest of this entry »

I love it when this happens — when the truth is so obvious that they can no longer deny it:

This decreased demand is the reason they want us to pay for transmission lines across the U.S. so they can market all this surplus power in locations where prices are higher.  DOH!

Electricity Sales Anemic for Seventh Year in a Row – WSJ July 28 2014