The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance elected new leadership in January and added two city members to continue advocating for the Northern Lights Express Passenger Rail Project and to continue working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to complete the federal review of the 152-mile corridor on existing BNSF Railway tracks.
Duluth City Councilmember Elissa Hansen is the new chair. She replaces Steve Raukar, retired St. Louis County commissioner, who led the group, known as the NLX Alliance, from its inception in 2007.The vice chair is Jason Serck, director of economic development, planning and port for the city of Superior, Wisconsin. He replaces Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins, who chose not to run for re-election.
The NLX Alliance also added two voting members, the cities of Cambridge and Superior. Each is a planned station stop on the proposed passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth.
Cambridge is represented by Economic Development Director Stan Gustafson. Superior is represented by Serck. They join representatives from Minneapolis, Duluth, Hennepin County, St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Additional station cities choosing not to be voting members, at this time, are Coon Rapids and Hinckley, although they are involved with project development, according to Hansen.
Hansen welcomed Cambridge and Superior at the January NLX Alliance meeting held at the Pine County Courthouse in Pine City.
“It’s good to see our membership be more reflective of the people and businesses in the corridor who will use and benefit from NLX,” Hansen said. “This formalizes the excellent working relationship the station cities have had since the beginning and gives Cambridge and Superior a vote at the table.”
By this summer, the NLX Project will be in position to move into final design and construction. This is a critical milestone that makes a project eligible for federal funding, which is expected to be the source of 80 percent of the total project development cost, estimated at between $500 and $600 million. If federal funding is available in a timely fashion, NLX service could begin as early as 2020. To learn more, visit NorthernLightsExpress.org.