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Wednesday, November 14, 2012    

Minnesota DOT, regional rail authority to review freight-rail capacity study

Today, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority (OCRRA) plan to hold a public open house in Rochester, Minn., to review progress on the Southeastern Minnesota Freight Rail Capacity Study.

OCRRA proposes to relocate a Canadian Pacific/Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad line around the city of Rochester to accommodate a projected increase in freight- and passenger-rail traffic, and address safety concerns associated with the current line that runs through downtown.

The alternative analysis study identifies rail traffic impacts in and around Rochester and cites feasible route alternatives via an initial environmental review. The Federal Railroad Administration designated MnDOT as the lead for the project and the department has partnered with OCRRA to complete the study, which also analyzes the current line's grade crossings and rail operations.

MnDOT and OCRRA plan to hold additional open houses on the study in January and March 2013. By February, they expect to release a feasibility study, which will review various alternatives' impacts on economic development and property values, social issues, community livability, and public safety and health. The alternatives include a no-build option with and without increased freight- and passenger-rail traffic; mitigating the current route through Rochester with and without increased rail traffic; the proposed southern rail corridor; and all reasonable bypass routes.

By March, McDOT and OCCRA expect to issue an initial alternatives analysis report.

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