Twin Cities - Superior - Duluth
Without Twin Cities
May 2023 - the Minnesota House and Senate Transportation Conference Committee has approved $194M for the Northern Lights Express (NLX) infrastructure and construction work in the Minnesota Transportation bill! This is a huge win for Minnesotans.
Under the current plan, NLX would use 152 miles of existing Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway track and connect Target Field in downtown Minneapolis to the St. Louis County Depot in Duluth. Stops are planned in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Hinckley and Superior, Wisconsin.
Sections of track would be built alongside the main route so the passenger trains could move out of the way as freight trains move through. Passenger trains would travel about 90 mph along the route. Estimates have placed the price tag of NLX at $450 million — but Minnesota would only have to chip in 20% of the total, as the federal government would pay $4 for every $1 from the state.
MnDOT has completed all studies for Twin Cities to Duluth service. All studies have been approved by regulatory bodies, and the service is now what is called "shovel ready" and infrastructure work can begin once all the funding is in place. The infrastucture work which would include new ADA compliant stations, grade crossing work, signaling, and track improvements to enable 90 mph or greater running speeds that is compatible with freight train service. The service is designed to be competitive with driving times on a two and a half hour schedule, and is estimated to draw 700,000 riders per year. The plans call for four round-trips between the Twin Ports and Minneapolis. The Target Field stop in downtown Minneapolis would provide close access to public transit options to reach destinations across the Twin Cities, including light rail connections to downtown St. Paul and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The $194M provided in the bill also allows MnDOT to buy into the new Midwest Passenger Car pool, which feature new Siemens coaches, now running on some Midwestern routes. These new cars could run on NLX as well as the new 2nd daily Twin Cities to Chicago train. The money also allows for the Coon Rapids Northstar Commuter rail stop to be built out and expanded as a northwest metro stop for Amtrak's Empire Builder. All Aboard Minnesota has long sought a stop somewhere on the Minneapolis side of the metro area since Amtrak moved into St. Paul Union depot for better access overall.
After the federal funding is secured, construction work will begin and is currently expected to take approximately three years to complete. Amtrak is expected to be the operater of the service. The last time passenger trains ran from Minneapolis to Duluth was 1985.
Presently, none of the daily trains are planned to serve St. Paul. All Aboard Minnesota is currently working with MnDOT to study a dedicated passenger rail line between Minneapolis, and St. Paul, which would enable NLX to serve both downtowns.
The NLX Alliance has published two new documents, an overview flyer, and a "myth buster" FAQ document, click on the two links below:
The NLX service would greatly build out the MnDOT state rail plan, and allow for connectivity from the current Amtrak Empire Builder service, and the 2nd Train Frequency from the Twin Cities to Chicago.