Open house offers detail on freight rail study - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Open house offers detail on freight rail study

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- The process to bring potential change to the area's freight rail system is ongoing and an open house Wednesday night in Rochester provided the opportunity to discuss concerns.

The Southeastern Minnesota Freight Rail Capacity Study is only in its infancy, but the proposals for changes to the freight rail system in the area are nothing new.

So, will things be different this time around?

"It's looking at the freight rail line that traverses through Rochester and Dodge and Olmsted County," said MnDOT project manager Peter Dahlberg.

In the second of four open houses on the subject, project coordinators presented their current findings in the Southeastern Minnesota Freight Rail Capacity Study, including future projections on rail use.

"We've identified some capacity scenarios," said Dahlberg. "Like for future freight traffic, is the freight traffic going to stay the same or is it going to increase by just a little bit or by a lot?"

Many alternatives for routes have been proposed in the past, but have been shut down. This study is taking a detailed approach to any changes.

"Potential capacity issues with future passenger rail along the existing CP corridor," said Brian Smalkowski of Kimley-Horn and Associates, a contributor to the project. "Accessibility considerations at grade crossings with increased rail activity, and then public health, safety and environmental concerns relative to increased rail activity."

The meeting also gave the audience a chance to throw questions at the experts about location and even about cost.

"By going through this feasibility study and terms analysis, that does make any improvements necessitated by this study eligible for federal funding," said Smalkowski.

There is much work to be done before any action is taken on the rail system in the area, but the public views will be utilized greatly in the entire process.

Two more public meetings are scheduled for January 21 and March 13, after which point the study will be complete.

Much more work is left to be done before any decisions on routes will be made.

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