Northern Lights Express Funding
This week Minnesota passed a transportation bill that includes nearly $195 million in funding for the Northern Lights Express (NLX). The NLX is a passenger rail line that would connect Minneapolis and Duluth, two of the biggest cities in the state, along with four intermediate stops along the route. The bill also includes funding for operating and capital costs for the second round-trip train between St. Paul and Chicago.
This is a big win for passenger rail advocates in Minnesota. Just last year the NLX project hit a snag when the Minnesota Senate passed an amendment prohibiting the state from investing money into the project. Despite this, a broad base of supporters continued to advocate for the NLX and have been rewarded for their efforts.
The most recent studies for the NLX suggests running four daily round-trips along the 152 miles of existing tracks, at max speeds of 90 mph. It’s projected that ridership would start at 700,000 to 750,000 in the first yer. The route begins at Target Field Station in Minneapolis, which provides access to public transit and light rail, and terminates at the St. Louis County Depot in Duluth. Intermediate stops are planned for Coon Rapids, Cambridge and Hinckley in Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. The track is owned by freight railroad BNSF and the project will require upgrading sections of track and lengthening sidings.
The $195 million for the NLX covers the required local funding for the project, and now they can pursue federal grants to fund the rest of the design work, construction and rolling stock. Agreements with track owners BNSF and likely operator Amtrak, need to be worked on as well.
HSRA Executive Director Rick Harnish (second from left) participating in a panel on building integrated rail networks.
Last week we shared the three most important things we learned at the US High Speed Rail Association’s conference in Washington, DC.
Now we want to make sure you can check out the videos from a wide range of speakers who attended the conference.
It’s also been a busy week of high-speed rail news off the back of this exciting conference. Check out these great stories!
Articles We Enjoyed:
Michigan has made substantial investments in passenger-rail service, for increased operational efficiency and time savings on the five current, round-trip services that Amtrak operates in the state. Continuing to make improvements to these routes remains a priority for Michigan, as well as exploring the potential for increased or expanded service. This includes improvements to rail infrastructure South of Lake, which will allow for better passenger-rail operations and reliability. Michigan plans to continue partnering with other Midwest states and Amtrak to identify projects and improvements that will lead to better passenger-train service.
Speaker: Peter Anastor, Director of the Office of Rail, Michigan Department of Transportation