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State Legislators Host Public Hearing in Duluth on Northern Lights Express

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: December 11, 2019 07:21 PM

State legislators were in Duluth Wednesday to hold field hearings on the Northern Lights Express passenger rail.

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Public hearings were done by the Minnesota House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee at UMD.

This was a chance for state lawmakers to hear from several community leaders about their thoughts on the project. Many of them said the rail service would have a positive economic and environmental impact to the state.

Mayor Emily Larson and other city representatives expressed their interest to get the long-awaited project started.

The event was an opportunity to discuss transportation related issues as well.

MnDOT presented a transportation update to representatives. They said the focus now is to secure capital and operating funding. Once that happens, completing necessary agreements with BNSF and Amtrack would be the next step. From there, they can start getting equipment, complete the final design, and start construction.

The project cost estimate is $440 million.

"We do need some matching funds, the federal government is our source for this, but we need matching funds, not only from the state of Minnesota, but we will be also be looking at the state of Wisconsin for some help," said Jason Serck, the chair for the Northern Lights Express Alliance. Serck said he attended the hearing to ask for support.

Rep. Mary Murphy spoke about her bill, which calls for $4 million in state money to help pay for the completion of some preliminary engineering for the actual building of the Northern Lights Express.

"We've got some very important documentation that's been done. Our latest is finding no significant impact. That kind of gets us to the point where we're shovel ready. So these little bits of funding will help phase our project and start at least beginning it. We're very thankful that there's a consideration of this," said Serck.

Serck said they plan on continuing to do crossing and swing bridge improvements, as well as look for funding and keep this on the legislators radar.

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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