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Renderings shed new light on proposed Northern Lights Express project

DULUTH, MN– 12 years ago,  the idea to connect the Twin Ports with the Twin Cities via high-speed rail was born. Tuesday night, we’re getting a first look at renderings of the proposed project and learning more about how it would operate.

The Northern Lights Express (NLX) and would use 152-miles of existing BNSF railway track. It would make 4 round trips per day between the Twin Ports and Twin Cities, being two and a half hours one way. As it stands now, NLX would have six different stops along the way, all at a cost of $30-dollars one way.

The proposed $500-million dollar high-speed railway project would stop at stations in cities including Duluth, Superior, Hinckley, Cambridge, Coon Rapids, and Minneapolis.

During a pitch for the railway to the Duluth Transit Authority this week, NLX alliance members revealed some new details about the plan.

Officials say the Amtrak Midwest Passenger car train would include one locomotive, three to five coach cars, and one cab control coach with the train hitting an average speed of 60-miles-per-hour, maxing out at 90-miles-per-hour.

A schedule was also laid out showing the train times at each stop, averaging just over two and a half hours one way.

Officials shed some light on what the station buildings would look like, adding all six stops would be ADA accessible. The stations would include the main building, boarding platform, ticketing, a waiting area, parking, and multi-modal access.

Stops in the twin ports would be on the North Side of Belknap street in Superior and the Depot Station in Duluth.

But of course, with all of this, project leaders say there’s still a long way to go with funding. “We’re in the governors bonding bill for 11 (million), House bonding bill for 4.4. (million) and the governors budget for $41 million. Are we going to get that? You guys know better than I do, no. But do we have a shot? Yes.” says Chair of NLX Alliance, Ken Buhler.

Buehler went on to discuss three more separate bills that request state funding for the project.

Those who pitched the plan say it’s about more than just transportation. The project would create estimated 3,000 construction jobs throughout the two-and-a-half-year construction period and reduce car emissions due to fewer vehicles traveled.

The next steps in the project will be to assemble funds, complete the final design, and complete negotiations with BNSF and other property owners.

Officials are hoping to begin construction and testing this year into 2020 and have full services by 2021.


Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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