So, where is our due diligence in California? Olmsted County is in Minnesota. In this article, below, they say they need to do theirs.
Minnesota is prepared to do its homework. Where is our homework, conducted by our state government? California turned the entire exercise over to the politicians who promoted this project in the first place for decades, and have a single-minded interest in obtaining billions in funds for it. That's not an objective source of data.
"The due diligence required by all levels of government for transportation projects requires significant time and effort over a period of years. It will be awhile before final decisions can be made about whether it is appropriate to proceed with the Zip Rail line project. State and federal agencies also will need to study the data and viability of the line before any decisions are made."
While I might challenge the source of the information commissioned by Sacramento to conduct HSR due diligence, at least in Minnesota there is an expression of interest in conducting such studies. I want to reiterate that if the government, or government sponsored consulting firms (seeking even further contracting work) are employed merely to produce reports that the government and HSR promoters want to hear, that is absolutely not what we are calling for here. Au Contraire!
"We support following a locally-driven, open and transparent process to consider what is best both for Olmsted County, and our region."
Even as this blog endorses such a call for honestly, our skepticism remains, based on who the "We" is. Are these people rail supporters, and is this yet another example of their marketing strategy?
We have the right -- no, we have the obligation -- to be highly skeptical, even as we insist on candor and clarity. What we have had in California up to now is just the opposite, with deception, distortion and dis-information the dominant mode of communication from the CHSRA.
It has been established that the Federal Department of Transportation, in its eagerness to promote the potential political benefits of high-speed rail, purposefully neglected to conduct the due diligence discussed here. No cost-benefit analysis; not one. No study about the risks and downsides of venturing into the vastness of outer space of untold multi-billions to be spent on a project about which we understand next to nothing within the context of transportation in the United States.
The US plan, as was the California plan, wast not to have a plan; but instead get this train built and figure out later whether there actually are any benefits. Meanwhile, the promotional rhetoric was to sell this train as the cure-all for all of our diseases, such as a failing economy, huge unemployment, traffic, the environment, and upset stomach.
On TV, the ads tell us, "Ask your doctor if this medicine is right for you." We, in California, haven't asked. Instead, we've been buying the sales pitch from the HSR drug salesmen.
So, this blog thanks Commissioners Brown and Wilson of Olmsted County, Minnesota for a smart position that demands a thorough investigation of whether HSR even makes sense in their neck of the woods. We need to do the same in California.
Ken Brown and Paul Wilson: High speed rail line requires time for due diligence
Posted: Nov 23, 2011, 7:01 am
By Ken Brown and Paul Wilson
Recent events and headlines about high-speed passenger rail provide us with a timely opportunity to update residents and explain what is happening with rail in Olmsted County.
First, let’s be clear that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) remains committed to a full analysis of the Zip Rail line, a new rail corridor that would connect Rochester to the Twin Cities with true high-speed passenger rail service.
MnDOT’s recent announcement about supporting further analysis of the River Route connecting Minneapolis and Chicago does not preclude development of Rochester-to-Twin Cities high-speed passenger rail. In fact, a Nov. 18 MnDOT news release said, “The Zip Line is one of the priority corridors under development as identified in the State Rail Plan.” Or as Dan Krom, the director of MnDOT’s Passenger Rail Office, said, “We are excited to work with our local partners to help develop this important rail corridor. Rochester needs to be better connected to the Twin Cities.”
We are pleased MnDOT has pledged its support for the Zip Rail project as a Priority 1 corridor. We will continue to work closely with MnDOT as we manage an objective process exploring the viability of the line, its cost and financing options, estimated ridership and service frequency. All of this data along with critically important citizen input will be needed to help local, state and federal authorities determine whether to ultimately proceed with development and construction of the Zip Rail project.
We support following a locally-driven, open and transparent process to consider what is best for Olmsted County and our region. Currently, the Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority (OCRRA) is in the early stages of exploring and studying the implications of Zip Rail. Hugely important to this process is input from the community — especially area residents. We already have begun reaching out to residents, and we are also committed to ongoing communication and partnership with neighboring counties, including Dodge, Goodhue, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey. We have been pleased with the input so far and public engagement opportunities will continue as we move further through the process.
The due diligence required by all levels of government for transportation projects requires significant time and effort over a period of years. It will be awhile before final decisions can be made about whether it is appropriate to proceed with the Zip Rail line project. State and federal agencies also will need to study the data and viability of the line before any decisions are made.
What we do know is that Rochester and southeast Minnesota will need enhanced transportation options in future years to support the continued economic development and job growth predicted for our region. So we owe it to ourselves to make the best-informed decision possible. We urge you to stay informed and actively participate in this process. We look forward to hearing from you and sharing more information with you in the coming months.
Ken Brown and Paul Wilson are members of the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners.