A new company called North American High Speed Rail Group really wants a high-speed passenger rail line running between Rochester and the Twin Cities.
Rather than waiting for various governments to squawk through a tedious, decades-long battle like we saw with the Green Line or Southwest Light Rail, the company says it's just going to build the damn thing itself.
Last week NAHSRG went public with its intentions, but details are scarce.
The rail line's price tag is estimated between $2-4 billion, and it would travel at speeds around 200 mph along either Highway 52 or 56, according to the Rochester Post-Bulletin.
NAHSRG will use a "privately funded model that incorporates transit oriented real estate development," something that has never been done before in America to fund a major transportation project. In response to email and phone messages asking for a bit more detail, company spokesperson Wendy Meadley issued a statement:
It is the North American High Speed Rail Group's interest to plan, design, build and operate this passenger rail corridor through a private funding approach. In this way a full range of economic development opportunities that complement the passenger rail service can be included in a new financial model. When combined, the economics of a project like this are integrated and amplified in a new business model focused on a larger development landscape.
What those "economic development opportunities" are is anyone's guess, but Meadley added there will be a press conference soon to explain more details.
Rep. Pat Garafolo (R-Farmington) says he's willing to give the new company a shot, as long as the taxpayers aren't left on the hook. He authored a bill banning any public money going toward the project, dubbed "Zip Rail," for now.
"My first concern is that we protect taxpayers," he says. "Going from there, existing laws, the governor's office, and the state and counties along the way would have to do their due diligence to research its viability, as with any large privately funded project."
NAHSRG's ability to win over some deep-pocketed sugar daddies will ultimately determine if this -- let's face it, pipe dream -- ever becomes a reality.
"Ultimately the proof will be in the capital they raise. If they raise the $3-4 billion necessary for this project, I think that demonstrates the confidence of investors," says Garafolo. "Whether they're going to be able to do that or not, I honestly have no idea, but I do know that if private sector investors are putting up this kind of money, then this is a viable business model."
"And if they're not putting up money, then it's obviously not.":
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