The Route to Winona is Key to DM&E Case
A unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit yesterday affirmed a decision of the Surface Transportation Board approving the upgrade and expansion of the DM&E rail line from South Dakota, due east, through Rochester, Minnesota. The proposed expansion has been controversial, in part, because the route runs adjacent to the health care campus of the Mayo Clinic.
While the Eighth Circuit had earlier remanded the plan back to the Board, yesterday it affirmed the agency’s approval of the plan against challenges from the City of Rochester, the Sierra Club and the Mid States Coalition for Progress.
Among the most interesting features of the panel’s analysis was the conclusion that, in order to avoid a finding of capriciousness, the Board did not need to consider alternative rail routes that undermined the essential purpose of the project. Because a key purpose to be achieved by the upgrades was a new, efficient link to the rail terminal in Winona, a circuitous path through Owatonna (that avoided Rochester), was not an alternative that the Board needed to consider in detail.
The complete opinion is accessible here.