Council hears update on Northern Lights Express
NLX officials hope train is operational by 2015
By Rachel Kytonen
Ken Buehler, chair of the technical advisory committee for Northern Lights Express, wants the community to know the passenger rail project is moving forward.
Buehler, a volunteer with NLX, explained the continued need for the project during the Cambridge City Council meeting Monday, March 19.
NLX is a proposed passenger rail project between the Minneapolis Transportation Interchange station and the city of Duluth, along Hwy. 65 and I 35, with one depot location planned for the Cambridge-Isanti area.
The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance is a joint powers board formed to explore options for renewing passenger rail service on existing tracks owned by Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway in the 155-mile corridor.
Buehler explained NLX will:
• Offer 2 1/4 hour service between Minneapolis and Duluth with top speeds of 110 mph;
• Spur approximately $2 billion in development along the 155 mile corridor;
• Encourage about 13,800 jobs; and
• Provide an environmentally sound alternative to automobiles that can be used for business and tourism.
“In the last 10 years, before the recession, 90 percent of all new jobs were created in the seven-county metro area,” Buehler said. “NLX will generate 14,000 jobs in new corridor employment.”
NLX will have a business class area where riders can use their laptops to work, access the Internet and make productive use of their time.
“A trip by train is a lot more productive than windshield time,” Buehler said.
NLX will also have quiet areas where no electronic devices are allowed for riders who want to just relax. Customers will also have up to 20 different purchasing options for their rides with discounts for seniors and frequent riders.
Eight trains will run per day with tops speeds of 110 mph, with slown-downs planned through cities. Buehler said the ride from Cambridge to Minneapolis would take 50 minutes.
“NLX will connect a good portion of the Greater Metro with the seven-county metro area,” Buehler said. “NLX is going to be built and will transform the entire region. It is the train for tomorrow.”
As far as costs, Buehler said, “NLX will break even after two years of operation.”
Buehler explained the environmental review for NLX is now completed, and is waiting on approvals. The project is also starting a new grass-roots campaign to keep communities informed about the importance of NLX.
Buehler explained NLX was among 22 successful applicants picked in May 2011 from nearly 100 requests to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project received a $5 million grant for engineering and environmental work. He said NLX also received $4 million from the state.
“With the $9 million we can now start the engineering study,” Buehler said, “and look at things that start building the project.”
Buehler projected NLX will be operational in 2015.
“We are hoping to have our first rider in 2015,” Buehler said. “Right now, NLX is the top shovel-ready project in the country. 2015 might be a stretch, but it’s possible if Congress passes a six-year transportation bill next year and there’s high speed passenger rail funding in it.”
For more information on NLX visit northernlightsexpress.org.
Precinct boundary changes
City Administrator Lynda Woulfe explained precinct boundary changes must be made by April 3. She recommended moving the precinct diving line from Main Street to the railroad tracks. She also recommended keeping the area north of Hwy. 95 on both sides of the railroad tracks in precinct 1.
Woulfe explained each precinct should not include exceed more than 3,000 registered voters. If the council approves the new precinct boundaries, it will have 2,590 registered voters in precinct 1 and 1,747 in precinct 2. She explained the new boundaries also set up the ability to split precinct 1 in future years when registered voters near the 3,000 voter threshold.
Polling place for precinct 1 will be City Center Mall and precinct 2 will be Cambridge City Hall Council Chambers.
After discussion, the council approved the new precinct boundary changes that will be forwarded onto Isanti County which will use the information to determine boundary lines for commissioner districts.
Traffic signal system project
The council approved accepting the bid from Killmer Electric for $52,030 for the Traffic Signal System Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) Improvement project.
The EVP system will be used to manipulate traffic signals in the path of an emergency vehicle, stopping conflicting traffic and allowing the emergency vehicle right-of-way, to help reduce response times and enhance traffic safety.
City Engineer Todd Blank explained the project consists of furnishings and installing EVP systems on five existing traffic signal systems. Once this is done, EVP will be in place on all signals except for Hwy. 65/South Main and the temporary signal on Hwy. 95/Co. Rd. 14/70.
Blank explained the project will begin in the spring and be completed in the fall. He said it will have very little disruption on traffic and the public.