A suburban Republican state lawmaker wants to block the state from moving ahead on a proposed high-speed rail line from Rochester to the Twin Cities, calling the Zip Rail project "a California-style boondoggle."
Rep. Pat Garofalo, of Farmington, said Zip Rail would be a waste of taxpayer dollars and that money should instead be directed towards upgrading the U.S. 52. "We have limited transportation funds. We would be better off building wider shoulders, more overpasses on Highway 52 instead of spending what would be billions of dollars on a line that people don't want, don't need and certainly don't want to pay for," Garofalo said.
If re-elected this fall, Garofalo said he would introduce legislation to halt the Zip Rail project. It would be modeled after a 2002 bill that passed, which prohibits the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Council and regional rail authorities from taking action or spending money to support the proposed Dan Patch commuter rail line from Northfield to the Twin Cities.
"Zilch for Zip is the motto we have," Garofalo said.
Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown said it's not surprising that a transportation project of this size would generate some opposition, but this proposal is different from other rail projects in the state because it would not require government subsidies to operate.
"We have always said and stand by that it will require no subsidies, it will make money, it will be profitable on an operation basis from day one, and we continue to believe that. All the data supports that," Brown said.
Garofalo's announcement comes after a recent series of public meetings to gather public input on the project. One of those meetings in Kenyon turned somewhat contentious with several of the people in attendance voicing opposition to the project. Goodhue and Dodge county commissioners are expected to consider resolutions Tuesday opposing the Zip Rail project.
For more on this story, check out tomorrow's Post-Bulletin.