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8/23/2006



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Majority of Minnesotans and Rochester residents oppose DM&E's RRIF loan, Mayo Clinic-commissioned survey says



Although a recent Crosslink Strategy Group survey of 400 Minnesotans showed two-thirds of the respondents favor the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp.’s (DM&E) application for a $2.5 billion federal loan to help fund its proposed Powder River Basin project, a survey commissioned by project opponents revealed opposite results.

More than half of the respondents among 706 Minnesotans polled oppose the Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Financing (RRIF) program loan, the Mayo Clinic and Rochester Coalition said. In addition, two-thirds of the respondents among 300 Rochester, Minn.-area residents surveyed gave the loan the thumbs down.

KRC Research, which conducted the polls, also surveyed 590 South Dakota residents and found 47 percent of the respondents oppose the loan.

Other survey results showed 68 percent of Rochester-area respondents are concerned the DM&E doesn’t have to provide collateral for the loan and won’t begin making payments for six years; while 59 percent of Minnesota and 66 percent of Rochester respondents are concerned about “secrecy surrounding the loan application, and details concerning who owns the railroad and who will profit from the taxpayer-backed loan,” the clinic and coalition said.

However, survey results are misleading because those polled were under the impression that the DM&E wouldn’t provide collateral for the loan, said DM&E spokeman Jafar Karim in a prepared statement.

“In fact, the DM&E will provide collateral [and] this loan will be fully secured,” he said. “Realizing that their case is rapidly vanishing under the weight of independent analyses, the Rochester Coalition released a survey that paints an inaccurate picture by pushing voters with misleading information.”

The DM&E plans to build a 262.3-mile line through western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming, and upgrade 600 track miles in South Dakota and Minnesota.

The clinic has opposed the project the past eight years. Last month, the clinic and coalition — which comprises the clinic, city of Rochester, Olmsted County and Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce — sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration urging the agency to deny the DM&E’s RRIF loan application.

And today, the clinic and coalition are launching a “Track the Truth” campaign to alert individuals, businesses and organizations along the proposed line about the loan and the railroad’s safety record.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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