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Legislation would restrict Twin Cities-Rochester rail

A pair of bills introduced Jan. 23 in the Minnesota Legislature would place restrictions on public spending and the use of eminent domain for passenger rail between the Twin Cities and Rochester. The legislation was authored in response to controversy surrounding the public Zip Rail project and a privately funded high-speed rail line proposed for the corridor in recent years.

The bills would prohibit public spending on planning, development and operation of passenger rail between the metropolitan areas as well as prevent public authorities from taking property for such a project. It also would require the state to secure state-owned property made available to a potential rail project in case it is started but never finished. Private funders additionally would need to obtain environmental insurance.

"I heard concerns about Zip Rail so frequently on the campaign trail that it compelled me to make a promise: If voters put their trust in me, my first bill would be to prevent Zip Rail for good," state Sen. Mike Goggin of Red Wing, chief author of the Senate bill, said in a news release Monday.

Both bills were referred to committee.