Officials hold Zip Rail public meeting - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Officials hold Zip Rail public meeting

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 ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Area residents packed RCTC's Heintz Center with a lot of questions about Zip Rail Tuesday evening.

"The use, probability, the mission that it's meeting, and then some of the location and cost issues," said Duane Sauke, who attended.

Officials working on the plan came with the answers they have so far. They're in the middle of the first Environmental Impact Statement, so they know the why.

"Connecting these two economies together is a really good idea," said Ken Brown, an Olmsted County Commissioner. And they know some of the where. "We'll come up with a preferred alternative by the end of the study," Brown said.

By the end of this first environmental impact study, officials hope to decide where the rail line will go. As of right now, they've released what they call a scoping document with a few alternatives. "That scoping document has taken the universe of alternatives for all the routes that could possibly be done and boil that down into a manageable number," Brown said. Officials were looking for feedback on that manageable number. The route could follow either Highway 52 or Highway 56. Up in the Twin Cities it could end at the airport or St. Paul's Union Depot. In Rochester, the possible endpoints are downtown or the airport.

Officials said they're sure of one important thing. "This route once it's up and running will be self sufficient," Brown said.

However, many of the rest of the big questions may not be answered until officials get funding for and complete the second environmental study. "We have to do the full environmental analysis, the engineering work, get down to all the final cost numbers," Brown said.

If officials do get funding for the study, the final decision on Zip Rail could come as early as 2018, and construction could take anywhere from four to seven years.
   
There will be two more public input meetings: one Wednesday in Inver Grove Heights and another in Kenyon on Thursday.    

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