Northern Lights Express reaches milestone in project process - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Northern Lights Express reaches milestone in project process

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Building the Northern Lights Express train takes money, so next on the to-do list is to secure funding for the passenger rail project serving Duluth and the Twin Cities.

The high-speed train project has the green light to start securing funding.

On Monday, stake holders and the public got an update on the Northern Lights Express (NLX). 

"We know that when we connect communities, we connect people," said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.

Findings released by the Federal Railroad Administration earlier this month said the project poses 'no significant impact on the environment.'

"Not every project makes it this far," said Charles Zelle, Minnesota Commissioner of Transportation. "And so now we're really waiting for the right funding opportunity to present itself and then we're ready to go."

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), though, funding won't come quickly.

"I do not expect it during this legislative session," said Zelle.

What MnDOT does expect is that there is help available.

"This type of project in the United States could be 80 percent federally funded, and only 20 percent relying on the state and local governments," said Duluth City Council president and NXL Alliance Chair, Elissa Hansen.

Zelle said, "in fact, this last appropriations bill just passed last week provides for increased rail funding. We would, as a state, have to provide matching funds.

It's just a matter of when that will happen for the NLX. 

"If we were to get the federal dollars this year, the state dollars this year or next year, it could be up and running three years after that," said Hansen. "So it goes through the final design and that construction period."

The NLX Alliance launched an online poll Monday afternoon for community members to participate in, ask questions and express any concerns.

Click here to take the poll. 

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