DULUTH, MN — It’s being called one of the most shovel-ready projects in the nation. The Northern Lights Express aims to connect the Twin Ports to the Twin Cities through a high-speed rail.
Amtrak officials met with Northland lawmakers Monday to express their deep interest in running the NLX service.
“Up until this point, there was really no reason for Wisconsin to do anything other than keep an eye on this project,” Northern Lights Alliance Advisory Committee Chair Ken Buehler said.
Now that the project has moved to a stage where funding has come into play, representatives are shifting their focus to Wisconsin, where a new rail-advocate governor is in charge.
“The initiative will be to involve Wisconsin more, and the change in the Governor’s office has certainly made that possible,” Buehler said.
Buehler says the state would account for more of the track than one might think.
“One would think it’s only into Superior, and then back into Minnesota,” Buehler said. “If you follow the BNSF track from Duluth-Superior down into Minneapolis, you’ll see that 13-percent of that total trackage is actually in Wisconsin.”
Stops would include Duluth, Superior, Hinckley, Cambridge, Foley, and downtown Minneapolis, with a possible addition of Sandstone.
“In Wisconsin, the, really, only place to stop is in Superior,” Buehler said.
Another big question is how the train would get from Superior to Duluth. Buehler says they’d use an existing rail bridge, located near the Bong Bridge.
“That trip from Duluth to Superior is going to take about a half hour. And the choke point on that the Grassy Point Draw, and that’s just not going to change,” Buehler said.
Regardless, officials believes the project would bring a big boost to the Superior area.
“The city of Superior is very excited about all of the opportunity that this brings, but we have to capture that energy,” Superior Mayor Jim Paine said. “This is a political process now and we need to be reminding the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the federal government just how important this is for our communities.”