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Amtrak explores Northern Lights Express service possibilities

Feb 15, 2019 06:35AM ● By Editor

By CeCe Gaines of KBJR-TV 6 - February 15, 2019

Amtrak could be eyeing up the Northern Lights Express rail project, potentially helping the high-speed rail that would connect the Twin Ports with the Twin Cities.

“Trust me, this will be a train that changes everything,” said Ken Buehler, executive director of the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

Officials said the Northern Lights Express rail project would have an incredible impact. Projections show that even in the first couple of years of service, anywhere from 700-750,000 passengers would ride the train.

“They would come to Duluth, they would be tourists, they would be business people. In the reverse, they would be people from Duluth who would go to the Twin Cities for business to see a Twins game a Vikings game,” said Buehler.

The project would use existing rail and calls for four trains going back and forth between the Twin Ports and the Twin Cities. One way tickets are projected to cost anywhere from $28 to $36. The NLX would make stops in Hinckley, Cambridge, Coon Rapids, and Target Field in Minneapolis.

“If you are a business person, those two-and-a-half hours become billable. You can work on your computer, your smartphone, your tablet, whatever. You can accomplish things other than having your hands on the wheel and looking on the windshield,” said Buehler.

Just last year it was determined the project would have no significant environmental impacts, paving the way for funding requests. The federal government requires a 20-percent state-local match to unlock 80-percent of federal funds. Minnesota lawmakers also co-authored a bill in January requesting four million dollars for the project.

“We have a new governor in Minnesota. We have a new governor in Wisconsin. Both are very pro-transit. We have a House of Representatives in Washington D.C. controlled by Democrats that are extremely interested in the environment, and trains are a very environmental way to move people,” said Buehler.

When NLX has proper funding, they can begin final design and construction, which would take about two-and-a-half years.

We’re told Amtrak representatives will be back in March to meet with lawmakers in the Twin Cities.

To read the original story and related reporting, follow this link to the KBJR-TV website.

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