Zip Rail’s dying gasp…

February 16th, 2016


There was a big turn out tonight at Urland Lutheran Church, where at least 100 people interested in the Zip Rail joined Sen. Matt Schmit and DOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle to hash it out.

This project is so “not happening.”  The state has pulled its funding, Olmsted County has pulled its funding, and the North American High Speed Rail Group is on its own (with no money).

County puts spike in Zip Rail project

MnDOT suspends its work on Zip Rail project

The last “Project Schedule” was published in March, 2015, 11 months ago to the date, and from that, it’s obvious this project is going nowhere, because nothing has happened since:

ziprail_program_schedule_031615It seems many people want certainty, want this to END!  They want confirmation that this thing is dead and buried and won’t reappear… but that’s not how these things happen.  It’s moribund, “lacking in vitality or vigor.”  In my humble professional opinion which I voiced at the meeting, based on over 20 years of wrestling with so many ill-advised and pipedream projects, there are two things to do:

Sen. Matt Schmit says the link for comments should be:

I would also send copies to:

Dan Krom

Praveena Pidaparthi
Planning Director

Garneth Peterson
Environmental Coordinator
651-366-3615 and

  • Put feet up, deep breathe, move on, and keep a casual eye open in case it pops up again.

There’s nothing that can be done to force a more certain resolution, and it requires a bit of trust (and maybe experience with public process?) that it’s stopped, is without funding, and that’s that.  Learn to live with it, it’s like a remission diagnosis, because there’s nothing to be gained from spending energy and effort being worried and fretful wondering if it’s going to come back, it’s time to live life.

What’s Chuck Michael going to do now?  What could possibly follow the Mesaba Project “pipedream of green and clean” and then this flop called Zip Rail?!?!


Hot off the press, received from the DOT yesterday:

Environmental Impact Statement suspension

MnDOT has announced the suspension of work on the Rochester-Twin Cities Passenger Rail Corridor Investment Plan and Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (Zip Rail) process that had a Final Scoping Decision Document issued on Jan. 19, 2015.

This project is a voluntary EIS under state environmental regulations. Public funding constraints, as well as private sector actions to undertake a similar project, have led to this decision. As the Responsible Governmental Unit, MnDOT, along with its partner Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority, determined that the most appropriate step is to suspend the Zip Rail EIS at this time.

MnDOT is also notifying interested individuals and agencies that participated in the environmental review process about the suspension of the EIS.

For more information about Zip Rail in Minnesota, visit MnDOT’s Zip Rail website.

And in the RW bEagle, here’s Alan in the background!


MnDOT commissioner tackles questions on high-speed rail

By Michael Brun on Feb 17, 2016 at 12:05 p.m.

CANNON FALLS — State Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle fielded a barrage of questions Tuesday night from a packed crowd of southeastern Minnesota residents anxious about proposed high-speed rail projects between the Twin Cities and Rochester.

Zelle and other Minnesota Department of Transportation officials took part in a town hall-style meeting hosted by state Sen. Matt Schmit in Urland Lutheran Church. The meeting was called in response to public concern over the recently shelved Zip Rail project and a separate proposal by a private rail developer.

The Minnesota-based North American High Speed Rail Group contacted MnDOT about a year ago to pitch its idea for rights to study and build a privately funded line connecting the two metropolitan centers, Zelle said Tuesday in his opening remarks.

“It was frankly a little vague, and we were very reluctant,” Zelle said of the proposal.

MnDOT announced Jan. 27 it had issued permits to NAHSR to study the feasibility of an elevated high-speed rail line following the Highway 52 corridor — which Zelle said should form a clearer picture of what the company envisions.

MnDOT and Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority meanwhile suspended study on the public Zip Rail project last month due to a lack of funds and “legislative appetite,” Zelle said.

Both projects drew strong criticism from several audience members who questioned the impact of a new rail line on area farmland and whether eminent domain would be used to construct it.

“We’re not standing here just because we don’t like an idea; we’re standing here in defense of ourselves and in defense of our communities and in defense of our homes,” said Heather Arndt with the grassroots group Citizens Concerned About Rail Line.

Zelle said any high-speed rail line — private or public — would require an environmental review process with opportunities for residents to make comments.

MnDOT also announced Tuesday it will include public comments in the state record alongside a Zip Rail alternatives analysis report released just before the project was suspended. The document, which identifies eight potential routes for Zip Rail, can be revisited in the future if interest in the project returns.

Details for submitting a comment can be found at

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