Updated: 07/30/2014 12:03 AM
Created: 07/29/2014 11:00 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
As the Destination Medical Center project progresses, so too are plans for a Zip Rail line connecting Rochester to the metro area.
On Tuesday night, Zip Rail leaders held an open meeting in Rochester to talk about the environmental impact of the project and to get public feedback.
Leaders have been conducting surveys of the area through which the train would pass, but said they won't be able to do specific environmental analysis until after a final route is chosen.
The eastern route options would stay close to Highway 52, while the western routes would go West toward Dodge Center before turning North.
Officials say they've ruled out the Rochester International Airport as a possible terminal, and all routes would end in downtown Rochester because that's where they say they'd generate the most riders.
"Every analysis that we have ever done on the routes is that it will require no operational subsidies,” said Ken Brown, an Olmsted County Commissioner. “It will pay for itself based on the ridership that we anticipate."
But project leaders have not released their final ridership estimates, and many said that's a big concern.
"I'd have to admit, like a lot of people, I'm concerned about spending billions of dollars on shaky business cases,” said Fran Bradley, who lives in Rochester. “So as much as anything, I'm interested in seeing good, hard, believable numbers that justify making this kind of expenditure."
"What's the cost that's going to come out in the long run?” asked Lance Houser, who also lives in Rochester. “Is it really going to be economic and efficient for the individuals that do use the system?"
Many at Tuesday's meeting said they'd support the project if the numbers add up.
But they said they'll just have to wait and see how the plans progress.
"At this point it's pretty easy to say we'll just keep learning,” Bradley said. “But there will come a time, a crossroads, where you've got to make a decision."
Project leaders hope to have a route chosen by early 2015.
Aside from hubs in Rochester and the Twin Cities, only one intermediate station is being considered in southern Dakota County.
Two more public meetings are planned this week, one in Inver Grove Heights and the other in Kenyon.
INVER GROVE HEIGHTS
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Inver Grove Community Center, Community Room 2
Thursday, July 31, 2014
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Kenyon-Wanamingo High School, Commons Area and Auditorium