Minnesota student group pushes high-speed railA statewide college student organization is putting its support behind the proposed Northern Lights Express high-speed passenger train between Duluth the Twin Cities.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
A statewide college student organization is putting its support behind the proposed Northern Lights Express high-speed passenger train between Duluth the Twin Cities.
“We are looking for ways to be less reliant on automobiles. High-speed rail is a good option for the future of transportation in Minnesota,” said Brian Downing, co-chairman of the University of Minnesota Duluth chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.
MPIRG is hosting four news conferences Saturday in communities along the proposed route to illustrate its support.
“This is what we as students want the future of transportation to look like,” Downing said. “We are going to take a position to move forward with the project.”
According to the nonprofit group, congressman-elect Rick Nolan will speak at the Duluth news conference. Nolan has expressed support for spending more federal money to develop a national rail system, including the Northern Lights Express project. He could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
NLX would offer 2¼-hour service between Duluth and Minneapolis, with top speeds of 110 mph. Project supporters say the project would spur
$2 billion in development along the 155-mile corridor and encourage about 13,800 jobs. Partners in the project include Hennepin, Isanti, Pine and St. Louis counties, along with the cities of Minneapolis and Duluth. The alliance hopes to win federal money to pay the majority of the project’s construction costs.
The project has its detractors and doubters. Citing uncertainties over future costs and subsidies, the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority voted June 12 to pull out of the alliance.
When asked how he responds to people who believe the project is too expensive, Downing responded: “It is a matter of thinking in the long term and thinking about all the things that we need to happen — getting off fossil fuels, working on sustainability issues.”
Early estimates put construction and start-up costs between $900 million and $1 billion. Preliminary engineering work will refine those costs, said Bob Manzoline, executive director of the St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Rail Authority, the NLX’s administrator.
Federal and state money will pay for the $8 million of preliminary engineering, which will take between 18 and 24 months, Manzoline said. The engineering phase is beginning now.
“The first big meeting with our engineering group will be on the 19th of December,” he said.
“We are finishing up the environmental study at the end of the year, so we will be doing some public meetings along the corridor in January to review the findings,” Manzoline said.
If you go
The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group is hosting a series of news conferences Saturday in support of the proposed Northern Lights Express high-speed passenger train between Duluth and Minneapolis. Locations and times for the conferences are: