High-Speed Rail Line Moves Forward

By KBJR News 1

March 18, 2013 Updated Mar 18, 2013 at 10:38 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The Minnesota Department of Transportation has released its environmental assessment for the high–speed passenger rail project that would connect Minneapolis to Duluth.

The nearly 200 page assessment outlines the environmental, economic, and social implications of the project.

After more than two years in the making, the Tier 1 Environmental Assessment detailingtravel demands, land use and environmental impacts of the proposed high–speed rail is complete.

"It's going to change everything. If you look at the 10 years prior to the economic downturn called the great recession, and if you look at where 95 percent of of all the new jobs in Minnesota were created n that 10 year period, it was in the seven county metro area," Ken Buehler, Chair of Technical Advisory Committee NLX, said.

According to the assessment, ridership is forecasted at 938 thousand riders in 2020 and will grow to more than one point three million riders by 2040.

It also found the high speed train may alleviate the future traffic volumes to increase up to 100 percent on Highway 35 by 2030.

Now, the project just needs funding.

"And that's going to take and agreement between the congress, and the white house on a new federal transportation bill that has funding in it for high–speed rail," Buehler said.

Buehler says the ground work on this bill has already begun.

He says Minnesota 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan submitted the project as priority for that funding.

Former eighth district representative Jim Oberstar, who railed for the project while in office, says the NLX is the way to go.

"...to facilitate the movement of people, and reduce the $120 billion dollar–a–year congestion tax that's shouldered on urban Americans, and free of the energy of this country," Jim Oberstar, Former Minn. Rep. 8th Dist., said.

Nearly 300 acres of vegetation would be converted to trackbed and slopes.

The next part of the study is expected to refine details on the impact of engineering of the line on the environment.

It will also include concerns for potential impact to bird nesting on bridges, and nearby fencing to minimize animal–train collisions.

A public hearing will take place on April fourth from 6PM to 8PM at the Cambridge armed forces reserve community center.

For more information on about the environmental assessment for the high–speed passenger rail project, click here: http://bit.ly/ZpelVR

Justin Reis, NNC.
jreis@kbjr.com

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