Q&A follows O'Toole's presentation at the fair
By Sandy Hadler
ZUMBROTA -- At the end of his presentation during the Goodhue County Fair, Randal O’Toole answered questions from the audience.
When asked if the proposed Zip Rail would be “as bad” as previous projects throughout the world that have preceded it, O’Toole responded, “It is a lot worse.”
He said a high-speed rail line from New York to Washington, D.C., makes sense because of the dense population in that area, but building a line between Rochester and Minneapolis with the low population density “makes no sense at all.”
He foresees low usage of the proposed line and the need for it to be subsidized, and noted that rail contractors would be the only ones who would benefit from a Rochester-Minneapolis line.
A woman mentioned that there is a proposal to turn the distance between Rochester and Minneapolis into a biotech corridor and she wondered if that would be a draw for high-speed rail. O’Toole said nobody will build a biotech community based solely on the availability of high-speed rail. Only by giving a tax break would the state attract biotech companies to the area.
O’Toole was asked, “What is the psychology behind people who want these trains? He responded, “Environmentalists think cars are evil, even though trains use much more energy. The feeling is if everyone has to rub shoulders on trains, there will be more sympathy for poor people and minorities.”
When was asked if the rail companies can land-lock farm land, O’Toole said they cab. “They care about getting the project done, but not how it affects people,” he said. ‘He was also asked about the likelihood of using imminent domain to attain property for the project. He responded, “The likelihood is 100 percent.”
O’Toole was asked if there were model ordinances available for local government entities to copy to keep the high speed rail project from going through this area. O’Toole said there are several cities in Oregon that have ordinances against high-speed rail, along with Estes County, Colorado, and he suggested looking them up on the Internet.
His final advice was to contact the county commissioners whose counties will be drastically affected by the impact of the Minneapolis-Rochester line, and to ask that the public be allowed to vote on the Zip Rail issue.
The comment period on the initial Zip Rail plan is open through Aug. 22.
He encouraged everyone to attend the “Preserving the American Dream” conference in Denver on Sept. 19-21, which will feature more than 30 experts. They will discuss light rail along with a number of other current issues.