Politicians in St. Paul are hoping they will soon get a green light for the Northern Lights Express. All they need is some actual green, as in money – which could happen now that Minnesota has a surplus close to $18 billion.
“It’s shovel ready,” said Minnesota Representative Erin Koegel (DFL-37A). “So we’re ready to rock and roll. If we can get that funding we can start putting those 3,000 construction workers to work.”
The total tab for this proposed train from the Twin Cities to the Twin Ports is $480 million. Most of the money would come from Washington DC, but St. Paul needs to kick in $88 million too.
Said Koegel: “This is really a huge opportunity that we have as a state to really kind of reimagine what our future is gonna look like including our transportation system.”
ANOKA COUNTY IMPACT
The rail corridor would go from Minneapolis to Duluth, with stops at the Foley Station in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Isanti, Hinckley and Superior, WI. According to Koegel, the Northern Lights Express would have a huge impact on Anoka County.
“There would be jobs maintaining, there would be jobs building and then just the access,” Koegel said. “Some of the business along that route could really sprout up. Our community would be more accessible to other people.”
The NLX trip would take 2 hours and 30 minutes each way – about the same amount of time as traveling between Minneapolis and Duluth on I-35 by car.
“If anybody’s driven up to Duluth, it’s heavily traveled by semis,” Koegel said. “Don’t even talk about going up on 4th of July weekend.”
Koegel has been singing the praises of the NLX for a few years.
“Just how cool it would be to hop on a train and go check out a UMD Bulldogs game,” Koegel said. “All the fun stuff, going to Urban or Bentleyville. Folks could just come down and enjoy the Twin Cities for a weekend, a day.”
The Northern Lights Express would make four round trips a day between the Twin Cities and Twin Ports. The estimated cost of a one-way ticket is $35.
“Instead of driving you can text,” Koegel said. “You can work on your computer. Not worry about snow. ”
Koegel and other politicians are hoping nothing derails the NLX from becoming reality. The project would take two to three years to finish and can start once the funds are approved.
“The plans are there,” Koegel said. “The advocates have been working really hard for a long time. This is the year. We have the opportunity with the federal money, with the surplus, and a lot of that match money we could probably do with federal funds as well.”
Another benefit of rail travel is getting people out of their cars and trucks which reduces pollution.
“The transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases,” Koegel said. “The more we can do to reduce our impact on the environment and climate, the better.”
NLX proponents believe this train would benefit Minnesota residents in countless ways.
“You could hop on the train, get some work done while you’re going to your meetings in the Twin Cities, then hop back and be home for dinner that night…” Koegel said. “Just those options to make mobility and transportation easier, more accessible to everybody. That’s really what we need to focus on as a state is making sure that everybody has options when it comes to travel.”