Twin Cities-to-Duluth Rail Project Gets $5M Grant

The Northern Lights Express proposed rail project received a $5 million grant from the federal government for engineering and environmental work.

The Northern Lights Express-a proposed high-speed rail project connecting St. Paul and Duluth-has received a $5 million federal grant to help pay for the project's engineering and environmental work.

The grant was part of $2.02 billion in high-speed rail awards that were announced Monday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Northern Lights Express is a rail project that was proposed in 2007, when the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance was formed to explore options for renewing passenger rail service on existing tracks on the 155-mile route between the Twin Cities and Duluth. The tracks were previously used by Amtrak until the company shut down service from the Twin Cities and Duluth in 1985 due to slow tracks and other operational challenges.

Last year, the Minnesota Department of Transportation approved $3 million of state bonding money to assist in the creation of the Northern Lights Express, which is expected to cost between $650 million and $750 million. According to the project's Web site, an environmental and engineering analysis will be submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration sometime this month.

Twenty-four states, Washington, D.C., and Amtrak together submitted nearly 100 applications for the grants. The Transportation Department's Federal Railroad Administration chose 15 states and Amtrak to receive a portion of the $2.02 billion, which will help fund 22 high-speed inter-city passenger rail projects.

“President Obama and Vice President Biden's vision for a national rail system will help ensure America is equipped to win the future with the fastest, safest, and most efficient transportation network in the world,” LaHood said in a statement. “The investments we're making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development, and boost manufacturing in their communities.”

Click here to see the other projects that received federal grants.