Saturday, November 03, 2007

Should other states emulate the Minnesota model of Regional Rail Authorities for each county?

Minnesota allows each county to establish by resolution a Regional Rail Authority. These Regional Rail Authorities can (thanks to the helpful Washington County website here):

  • Ability to acquire real and personal property within or outside its taxing jurisdiction
  • Ability to hold, manage, control, sell, convey, lease, mortgage, or otherwise dispose of property
  • Ability to apply for state and federal funds
  • Ability to tax
  • Ability to exercise Eminent Domain
  • Ability to collect a fee for use of its property

It was the Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority, not the Ramsey County Board, that just agreed to purchase the old Union Station in downtown St. Paul. I'd imagine that having a separate authority is good for bond ratings and also good to ensure rail investments don't get caught up in the budget battles of the county. It also gives a lot more political players an opportunity to invest in rail than just the state DOT or Congress.

For high-growth counties, this position from Washington County (which will double in population in 30 years, they say) is interesting (again, from their website):

The WCRRA recognizes the need for additional transportation investments and that transit will play an increasingly important role in maintaining the high quality of life enjoyed by county residents. To provide for the implementation of future transit at the least possible cost to county residents, the WCRRA takes a proactive approach to acquiring property.

Property purchases are limited to those parcels which will be necessary for a transit system's implementation. In many cases, this acquisition occurs many years before a system is constructed through purchases of abandoned or ready to be abandoned rail corridors.

By acquiring complete corridors, the WCRRA is able to preserve existing transportation corridors instead of trying to create new corridors in the future. By preserving instead of creating, the WCRRA is able to use its funds in a very cost effective manner. Property acquisitions, future transit implementation, and working with other governmental institutions allows the WCRRA to fulfill its mission of maintaining Washington County residents' high quality of life.

I'm intrigued. Anyone know more?


Blogger Scott Dier said...

Even cooler, they buy up old rail corridors and transform them into trails -- then convert them to trails/transit or transit in the future. So even though we can't 'afford' (I use the term loosely, as in, we could, but a pile of people don't want to) rail, they can be turned into bicycle transportation corridors. Many are flat and grade separated.

This has so far only happened in one place in the Twin Cities area, the Hiawatha corridor. Hopefully the other land the Hennepin authority owns can be turned into rail lines sooner than later.

6:42 PM  
Blogger UChicagoDomer said...

don't know whether this blog is still being post to. my post is not on topic. Milwaukee just dedicated its new amtrak station. what's the status of Chicago's? when does the private developer's plan come up for a vote? is there any opposition being lodged against it presently? sorry for the rapid-fire nature of the questions.

12:12 PM  

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