The Goodhue County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday, June 21 to accept their Comprehensive Plan, which included implications for the proposed high-speed rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities.
“This Comprehensive Plan update is an effort to reinforce long standing planning priorities of the County while recognizing changing conditions, trends and new issues,” explained the Executive Summary published by the Board. “At its best, the County’s Comprehensive Plan reflects ‘A Shared Vision’ for the future of Goodhue County.”
Included in the “Shared Vision” are strategies concerning plant agriculture, water resource implementation, land resource implementation, diverse businesses, road network implementation, rail networks and utilities.
Not included in the “Shared Vision” was any affection for ZipRail, which was named in section A of the Rail Network Implementation Strategies section of the report.
While the report simply says that the county will continue to “monitor the rail initiatives throughout the region,” the report goes on to provide the caveat that, “Any new or proposed rail system must benefit Goodhue County.”
The proposed high-speed rail line of concern will have zero stops in Goodhue County but could eventually cost taxpayers, which appears to be the reason for this sub-section.
Board Chair Dan Rechtzigel, of Kenyon, told the Red Wing Republican Eagle that Zip Rail and North American High Speed Rail can no longer say that the county is on board with this project, which was the intention of the language included in the Comprehensive Plan.
While the county has made their stance very clear with numerous oppositions to the proposed rail line, NAHSR and their Chief Manager Wendy Meadley do not appear to have any concerns about the project’s future.
Meadley told the Rochester Post Bulletin on Friday that she does not, “see any final barriers that would stop the project from going forward.”
Due to a lack of public funding and fierce opposition from groups like CCARL, NAHSR appears to be avoiding as much of Goodhue County’s land as possible and have hinted toward an elevated line running atop Highway 52.
Previously, an alternatives analysis from MnDOT included options using the Highway 56 corridor, which would directly impact the city of Kenyon. However, it appears that 52 is the direction the Bloomington-based company would like to take.
In the Post-Bulletin article, penned by Heather Carlson, she notes that the next phase of the project is raising $50 million from American-based investors for a feasibility study on the route. Additionally, Carlson noted their intention to use the rail line for small freight on the line as well.
Finally, of note in the Post-Bulletin piece was Meadley’s comments about the issue of eminent domain, which is a primary concern for Goodhue County. She told Carlson that eminent domain is, “the last choice” and that they would rather, “stay within the right of way,” and “lease air rights” instead of resorting to eminent domain.
Overall, while Goodhue County’s Board of Commissioners continues to act in the interests of its citizenry, Meadley and NAHSR do not appear to be concerned with their efforts in Goodhue County.