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Local View: Minnesota’s golden opportunity for clean, economical, higher-speed rail

What's not to like about this deal?

Red train and spring landscape at sunrise. Spring travel context
German regional train and rapeseed field at sunrise. Passenger train traveling in spring scenery. Eco-friendly public transport in a rural landscape.
Say-Cheese/Getty Images/iStockphoto
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It’s time for the Minnesota Legislature, Gov. Tim Walz, business and labor, environmental groups, and consumers to go to bat for the Northern Lights Express — 152 miles of job-generating, higher-speed, intercity passenger rail running between Duluth and Minneapolis four times daily.

The Legislature, the governor, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation need to immediately place this project into competition with others around the nation and take advantage of billions of dollars dedicated to rail in the federal Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

Teamsters Joint Council 32, the Minnesota Building & Construction Trades Council, the Duluth Building Trades Council, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Smart TD Transportation Union are all on board. So are several business groups, including the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Minneapolis Downtown Council, the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce, North 65 Chamber of Commerce, GPS: 45:93, East Central Regional Development, Duluth Seaway Port Authority, and the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.

Minnesota has a budget surplus estimated at more than $9 billion. We would need to put about $85 million of our surplus on the table. In return, the federal government — if they approve NLX — would add the $340 million necessary to complete the project. Who wouldn’t take that return on investment?

Keep in mind the federal money would be part of the bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act already approved by Congress. If we don’t request that $340 million, another state will get it — along with hundreds, if not thousands, of good-paying union jobs.

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In fact, studies show that construction improvements to the existing rail lines would generate some 3,000 new jobs. More than 500 jobs would be permanent.

Minnesota receives only about 65 cents for every $1 we send to Washington in taxes. Some states, mainly in the South, get more than $5. It’s time to even things up.

What would the Northern Lights Express mean for Minnesotans?

For military veterans: a quick, easy, affordable trip for treatment to and from Duluth, Hinckley, Cambridge or Coon Rapids to the VA Hospital in Minneapolis.

For students, seniors, sports fans, folks with disabilities, and people looking for a night out in the Twin Cities or Duluth: safe, fast and convenient travel.

For business people: just over two hours of smooth, easy travel to prepare for meetings.

For the environment: thousands of car trips replaced with clean, higher-speed trains.

What’s not to like about this deal? Let’s get going with the NLX!

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Trevor Lawrence
Trevor Lawrence

Trevor Lawrence, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Joint Council 32 and Teamsters Local 638, representing drivers and construction workers throughout Minnesota and North Dakota.

Nick Katich
Nicholas Katich

Nicholas Katich, legislative director, Sheet Metal, Air, and Transit Union

Joel Mueller
Joel Mueller

Joel Mueller, chairman Division 9, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and Trainmen

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