No, no a thousand times no. That’s the constant refrain of Phil Krinkie, the former Republican legislator and now head of the MN Taxpayers League.
No to trains. No to Duluth. (“Minnesota’s proposed ‘train to nowhere,’ “ Nov. 24). Really? I beg to differ.
Increasingly it’s clear that leaders and voters with vision want more than just roads, not that we don’t need to invest in them, too. A recent poll by Minnesota 2020 shows 72 percent of respondents agreed that the state should be exploring more ways to expand and promote regional rail services as a means of affordable and efficient transportation. A multimodel approach will result in the most cost and energy efficient solutions at a time when both rising energy costs and environmental stewardship are paramount.
Interest in rail is up across the country. In this past election, more than 70 percent of transit investments on ballots across the country passed.
Legislature agrees: We need better infrastructure
Our own Minnesota Legislature overrode the governor’s veto in order to advance the agenda for better infrastructure. Recent high gas prices brought the issue home for many people — we need to get Minnesota into the current century with transit investments, like Northern Lights Express, the proposed passenger rail project from Minneapolis to Duluth.
The National Passenger Rail Study Group identified this route as one of eight top priorities for development in the entire country. It’s not surprising when you look at the potential for success. A recent feasibility study of the proposal demonstrates tremendous promise. Travel time will compete with cars. Economic stimulus could bring 13,775 jobs, $617 million in annual income and $1.8 billion in increased property values to Minnesota’s economy.
Northern Lights Express, or NLX, will connect the metropolitan centers of Duluth and Minneapolis, with a few key stops in between. The route is being championed by a joint powers board of county commissioners and city council members, along with community leaders. Dialogue is ongoing between the group and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, hosts to the Grand Casino in Hinckley, one of the top destinations in the entire state.
A link to regional rail system
The NLX corridor will link to a regional rail system that someday soon may extend to Chicago and beyond. NLX is in position to benefit from new federal dollars available for rail projects. In fact, we just received $1.1 million to advance the project during its preliminary stages.
Krinkie is wrong in his desire to save money now while causing Minnesota to fall further behind. We deserve better. I’m glad local leaders along the NLX corridor think so, too, and they are willing to work for it.
St. Louis County Commissioner Steve Raukar chairs the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance.
Want to add your voice?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion by writing a Community Voices article, email Susan Albright at salbright [at] minnpost [dot] com.