Northern Lights Alliance: Train Project Won't be Derailed

By KBJR News 1

January 29, 2013 Updated Jan 29, 2013 at 10:33 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Supporters of the Northern Lights Express say they won't be derailed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lack of proposed funding. The Northern Lights Alliance says the project is still on track.

Officials say they're relying more heavily on federal rather than state funding.

Approximately 80 percent of the needed funds are expected to come from the federal level.

The Northern Light Express project is still in its preliminary stages.

Ken Buehler, chair of the technical advisory committee for the project, says the alliance isn't depending on state money at this time.

"We're not asking for money right now we will need the money two hopefully three at the most, years from now, and who knows what the situation will be like at that particular time," he said.

The Alliance is currently waiting for Congress to pass a federal transportation bill that includes a high speed railway.

"Congress needs to come together," Buehler said. "Democrats, republicans and the white house all need to agree that we're going to have this super transportation built"

While federal funding is the key factor to getting the railway up and running, multiple sources of revenue are necessary for its' completion.

"We'll be looking at federal transportation funding, that will be prominent and then grants and we're hoping that at some point we'll be partnering from the state," said Duluth City Council member Sharla Gardner.

The project felt a several thousand dollar loss when Anoka county pulled out of the Alliance in June of 2012.

But despite setbacks like this one, supporters have not given up and connecting to the Minneapolis job market is one of the reasons why.

"The closer we can make the twin cities to us the better of economically Duluth will be," Buehler said.

Officials also say the railway provides an environmentally sound alternative to using a car.

"One of our biggest weaknesses in the US is our oil dependency," said Duluth City Council member Patrick Boyle.

Many believe the Northern Light Express will grow Duluth's population as well as increase tourist attraction.

"Planes, trains and automobiles. If Duluth has all 3 then we can't lose," Gardner added.

The Alliance has already received $9 million for the project. $1 million of that was from Washington.

Right now they are waiting for a federal transportation bill to be passed that specifically includes a high speed railway.

If all goes according to plan, the Northern Light Express could break ground in 2015.

Gabrielle Ware