Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

May 20, 2016

Orange barrels on a highway

Environmental field work for Northern Lights Express project begins

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation is scheduled to begin environmental field work along the Northern Lights Express project corridor in late May and early June.

The Northern Lights Express is a proposed high-speed intercity rail project that will provide passenger service between Target Field station in Minneapolis and The Depot in Duluth, with stations in Coon Rapids, Cambridge and Hinckley, Minn., and in Superior, Wis. 

The passenger rail service will operate on 152 miles of existing BNSF rail corridor. Field activities will involve multiple contractors working on-site near the rail corridor and at station and facility locations. Environmental field work is anticipated to continue through fall 2016. This work is needed for staff to inspect project areas and gather information for the project’s Tier 2 Project Level Environmental Assessment document scheduled to be released in early 2017.

Prior to the current study, the Tier 1 Service Level EA prepared in 2013 evaluated effects of the project as a whole, compared multiple corridor alternatives, and selected a preferred corridor for passenger rail service. The Tier 2 Project Level EA will update impacts described in the Tier 1 Service Level EA, using detailed information from preliminary engineering and site planning completed for track infrastructure, crossings, stations, and layover and maintenance facilities. The Tier 2 EA will evaluate potential social, cultural, environmental and transportation-related impacts of the NLX Project.

The Federal Railroad Administration is the lead federal agency overseeing preparation of the Tier 2 Project Level EA with MnDOT, and in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance, and local communities. After a formal public comment on the Tier 2 Project Level EA, the FRA and MnDOT will prepare a final decision to implement the NLX Project. When the NLX Project has environmental approval, MnDOT can move forward with final design and construction.

For more information: www.mndot.gov/nlx.

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To learn more about funding Minnesota’s transportation system, visit Get Connected at www.dot.state.mn.us/getconnected