Council committee signs off on funding supporting high-speed rail line to Duluth

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August 19, 2014 // UPDATED 12:44 pm - August 21, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

The City Council's Transportation & Public Works Committee has approved spending $12,500 in city funds to continue participating in the planning process for the Northern Lights Express — a proposal for a high-speed rail line between Minneapolis and Duluth.

Donald Pflaum, a Public Works transportation planner, briefed the committee this morning on the project, which has been in the planning stages for several years. He said project organizers need to secure $45 million to move into the preliminary engineering phase for the proposal. 

Organizers are expected to seek funding from the state Legislature next session as well as apply for federal sources, he said.

Cost estimates for the Northern Lights Express range from $400 million to $700 million, he said. 

The train would run on an existing freight corridor owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The travel time between downtown Minneapolis and Duluth on the express train would take an estimated two hours and 15 minutes. Stations have been proposed for Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Hinckley and Superior.

Riders would connect to the line near Target Field.

If funding sources are secured for the project, planners would like to begin construction in 2018 and have the line ready for passengers by 2020.