Northern Lights Express Proponents Have Their Say Before Legislative Committee Meeting in Duluth

Supporters of the proposed Northern Light Express got their chance to have their say before members of the Minnesota House Finance and Policy Committee last week.

The committee held a public hearing at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to discuss how funding can be secured for the proposed rail service between Duluth and the Twin Cities.

Speaking on behalf of the service was state representative Mary Murphy who said she isn’t looking for a time machine but “We have to learn how to travel into the future.”

Murphy is sponsoring a $4 million bonding bill that would pay for the engineering phase of the $550 million project.

Informally known as NLX, the plan is to operate four roundtrips a day over BNSF tracks between Minneapolis and Duluth with intermediate stops in Minnesota in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, and Hinckley. The trains would also stop in Superior, Wisconsin.

The service is envisioned as having a top speed of 90 miles per hour and an average speed of 60 miles per hour.

“It will change everything,” said Ken Buehler, chairman of the NLX Alliance Technical Advisory Committee about getting the funding approved.

Amtrak estimates the service would need annual funding of $17 million but Bob Manzoline, NLX Alliance executive director, said the funding is more likely to be closer to $7 million.

How the project will be funded has yet to be worked out, which means that the service is likely years away from being implemented even in a best case scenario.

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