Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mayo Clinic vs the Railroad, Round 2

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN is back in the news in their continuing battle against hazmat rail shipments rolling past their hospital. In May of 2008 they were part of a coalition that opposed the acquisition of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) because of the increased movement of ethanol through Rochester. They lost their case before the STB last fall. Now, according to an article on StarTribune.com, they are proposing to use public funds to build a rail line around Rochester, to re-route the hazmat shipments away from the Clinic. While there is some opposition to hazmat rail traffic in the rural communities through which the proposed line might run, it would seem that the 48.3 mile by-pass, costing an estimated $325 million, could be an effective re-routing option for this area. At least the politicians think so; this ‘Southern Rail Corridor’ is supported by Congressman Tim Walz (D,MN), Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D, MN) and Congressman James Oberstar (D, MN), the powerful chairman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee. The fact that the Mayo Clinic is “Minnesota's largest private employer” has nothing to do with their support. Actually, while this case smells of support for the desires of a politically important industry, this may really be viable alternative to running hazmat rail shipments through urban areas where there are not existing alternative routes. The only real question is who should pay for the construction of the new routes; the railroads that will use the lines, the shippers whose products will go on the new lines, or the residents of the urban areas that will no longer be face the potential threat of a hazmat spill. Or just maybe this is a legitimate use of federal money to both provide for the common defense and promote interstate commerce.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */