Imagine having the option to travel the busy Interstate 35 between Pine County and the Twin Cities or the Twin Ports, or alternatively being able to use a 110 miles per hour passenger train service.
The Northern Lights Express (NLX) is proposed to do just that for the 155-mile corridor between Minneapolis and Duluth. Plans are to upgrade an existing BNSF Railway freight line to allow trains to travel at high speeds connecting the State’s two largest metropolitan areas.
The NLX will be the first passenger rail service connecting the two major metros since 1986, when Amtrak discontinued the 50-mile-per-hour North Star.
“[It] is an active project,” said Kenneth Buehler, Chair of the NLX Technical Advisory Committee. “We recently were granted five million dollars in Federal Railroad Administration Funds to match four million dollars in State Funds to begin our engineering.”
Buehler will outline the progress that NLX has made at this month’s City Planning Commission meeting, Tuesday, April 24, at 6:30 p.m. He said, “The NLX is just completing a two and half year Environmental Review and we are starting aerial mapping of the right-of-way.”
The presentation will bring people up-to-date on the progress of the Joint Powers Alliance and, according to Buehler, “revisit the reasons this train is going to run!”
“Discussion about this line dates back at least a decade,” said Nathan Johnson, city planner for the City of Pine City. “All indications say the project is still moving forward, as planned. Now, we must best position the communities along the route, and nearby, to take full advantage of the line and all it has to offer us.”
Every $1 that communities invest in public transportation generates approximately $6 in economic returns, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
“This project will be an amenity to the residents of Pine County,” said Johnson, adding, “Not only will it be a convenience for us, and those trying to get here, there is the added benefit of jobs, and long-term economic development opportunities lie ahead for our area.”