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Skepticism over plan for high-speed rail between Twin Cities, Rochester

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As steps are taken towards a high-speed rail link between the Twin Cities and Rochester, the opposition to a possible project is growing.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reported this week that progress in the proposed publicly-funded rail project "Zip Rail" has stalled, with MnDOT officials considering suspending work on it as there's no money available.

Preliminary engineering work on the project along the Highway 52 corridor would cost between $55-65 million, leading transport officials to put a pause in the project with no federal funding on the horizon.

Hopes of a high-speed rail future are not dashed however, with the newspaper reporting that a private company called the North American High Speed Rail Group have applied for permission from MnDOT to launch a feasibility study into its own plans for a 200mph link between Minnesota's two largest urban areas.

The Bloomington-based firm says it has backing from U.S. and Chinese investors and is expected to raise $4.2 billion for the project, but MPR reports any high-speed rail plans is likely to be met with significant public opposition.

The proposals have given rise to complaints from those living in rural areas in between, who don't think they should have to pay for a project that will bring all the benefits to Rochester, while seeing farm and taxable land lost, and a reduction in road traffic that helps support smaller businesses.

Citizens Concerned about Rail Line has been set up to represent these interests, with the organization expressing skepticism that the High Speed Rail Group's proposal would require little in the way of public funding,

The private company's plan would see trains reaching speeds of more than 200 mph between the cities, reducing traveling time to around 30 minutes at a time when Rochester is experiencing a massive expansion of the Mayo Clinic, with its Destination Medical Center plan expected to draw tens of thousand more workers to the city in the coming decades.

But Heather Arndt, who lives on a farm in Goodhue County and is one of those opposing the rail link, told MPR: "If their choice is to take a great job opportunity in Rochester but they prefer to live in the Cities, that is their personal choice.

"It should not be the responsibility, the problem or (to) the economic disadvantage of people who live between the two places to have to pay for that."

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