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Zip Rail Project Making Progress

Created: 05/21/2014 6:35 PM KAALtv.com
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- Zip rail plans are moving along, with heavy focus in downtown Rochester. Talks of connecting the Twin Cities and Rochester with a high speed rail have been in the works since the early 90's, but that dream is coming much closer to becoming reality as Destination Medical Center moves forward.

"We have stake holders involved from med council, to the airport commission, to all the rail authorities in between small cities in the route, and so on," said Ken Brown with the Olmsted County Rail Authority.

Phase one has already started, that's studying the ridership and which routes would draw the most traffic. Out of more than a thousand possible locations on the list, downtown Rochester looks to be the hot spot.

"The initial stop will be downtown Rochester and the initial stop in the north end will be MSP, the airport," said Brown.

It doesn’t look like that'll be the only stop in the area either.

"There are about four or five routes right now that are being evaluated, it won’t be decided until the end of the tier one study," said Brown.

They do tell us, however, the next most promising spot is the Rochester International Airport. "We’d like to be a part of the process and see a bright future with the airport involved at some point," said Marty Lenss, Executive Director of the Rochester International Airport.

Ridership is the driving factor, there's also a lot of space for growth out near the Rochester International Airport. "At the airport we've got quite a bit of land and are zoned appropriately to be able to accommodate those sorts of things," said Lenss.

Along with the more obvious fact, that it links the two modes of transportation. "We have great highway access near the airport, certainly have air access, and then linking that rail component really begins to provide a multi-mode hub operation of transportation services," said Lenss.

"The numbers look like the airport with downtown Rochester, is the first connection that should be made," said Brown.

The plan is to wrap up phase one by the end of the year to start phase two by 2015. That will be the full engineering and design of the project. If things keep on track, construction could start just a couple years after that.

Photo: ABC 6 News