Amtrak Interested in Operating the Northern Lights Express

Ryan Juntti
Updated: March 11, 2019 10:29 PM

Amtrak is interested in operating the Northern Lights Express, according to Joe McHugh, Amtrak Vice President of State Supported Services - Business Development.

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The proposed passenger rail line would provide train service between Duluth-Superior and Minneapolis.

For more than a decade, there have been efforts to bring the Northern Lights Express to the Twin Ports. 

Now McHugh is confident the service will be available sooner rather than later.

"The Northern Lights Express is a train that will change everything," said Ken Buehler, Chair of the NLX Technical Advisory Committee.

The momentum is building to bring the Northern Lights Express to the Twin Ports.

"This is getting attention across both states for the potential it has, not just for our economy, but for the quality of life of everybody that lives along the corridor," said Superior Mayor Jim Paine.

If constructed, it will operate on approximately 152 miles of existing BNSF railroad. 

It would include stops in Duluth, Superior, Hinckley, Cambridge, Coon Rapids, and Minneapolis, and would run out of the Duluth Depot.

"This is going to directly affect all of us. Economic development, as we've seen with rail services in the Twin Cities, it's a win," said Patrick Boyle, St. Louis & Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority member.

"Northern Lights Express improves safety, is environmentally sustainable, it's an engine for economic development, and will improve the quality of life in Minnesota and Wisconsin," said Buehler.

A trip from Duluth to Minneapolis would take about two and a half hours, and the train would run up to 90 miles per hour.

McHugh says it would open up all sorts of opportunities.

"It's not just about taking trains, it's about providing transportation, it's about providing the ability to go to work, to go to school, to visit loved ones, to go to hospitals, and really just to see America," said McHugh.

And he says it's just a matter of time till the service is available.

"I think this is a winning hand you have right now. I think the cards have been dealt well," said McHugh.

Between $500 and $550 million dollars is needed for rail upgrades and stops along the way.

The Northern Lights Express would be funded with 20 percent state and local dollars, and 80 percent federal dollars.

As of right now federal funding has not yet been approved, and there is no target date for when the rail service could be running.


Ryan Juntti

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