Minneapolis-Duluth passenger service clears regulatory hurdle

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MINNEAPOLIS — A proposed passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn., took a significant step forward this week after federal regulators determined the service would not have a significant impact on the environment along its route.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Minnesota Department of Transportation will now try to find federal and state funding for the 152-mile Northern Lights Express, which is expected to cost between $500 to $600 million.

Using a BNSF Railway line, the route would serve intermediate stops in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, and Hinckley, Minn., and also serve Superior, Wis.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s “Finding of No Significant Impact” allows the state agency to move forward with the project, Frank Loetterle, Minnesota's transportation department’s project manager, told the Star Tribune: “It’s a significant hurdle because we can now work on getting an agreement with Amtrak, BNSF, and funding for final design and construction.”

The new service would follow the route used by Amtrak’s North Star, which was discontinued in 1985. Estimates are it would generate 700,000 to 750,000 rides in its first year of operation.

The complete Star Tribune article is available here.

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