Is High Speed Rail Right For Pine County?
The Pine County Board sat down with members of the North Lights Rail Alliance for several hours, Wednesday, to ask questions regarding the impact a high speed rail line between Duluth and Minneapolis can have on the county.
The Alliance is a group made up of commissioners from various counties, including Pine, Isanti, Anoka, St. Louis, Hennepin, Douglas County, WI and Superior, WI that discuss how to bring the rail service from idea to reality.
The proposed rail line will cover 155 miles running at speeds up to 110 mph and is estimated to cost $400 million. The project receives 80-percent of funding from Federal dollars. The other 20-percent will need to come from the state or local level.
Steve Novak of Anoka County said there are three main economic benefits for bringing stops to Pine County.
Pine County Commissioner Curt Rossow raised the majority of the questions from the board. He questioned if the line can sustain the projected 900,000 riders on a yearly basis and also if having the line will benefit the entire county.
Executive Director of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and Historic Union Depot, Ken Buehler, said if a similar train from Boston to Portland, Maine is any indication, the Northern Lights Express train will be a success.
Sandstone City Administrator, Sam Griffith, told the group that he has received numerous letters from local residents around the Sandstone area who say having a high speed rail line, like the Northern Lights Express, come through the area can mean a boost to the local economy.
The Alliance says Congressman Jim Oberstar’s office believes the project can finish within five years. Oberstar chairs the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. John Ongaro from St. Louis County said because of the project’s connections in Washington D.C, the NLX has as good chance to receive federal stimulus dollars.
Oberstar’s office announced, Wednesday, the NLX would receive $495,000 from the $410 billion Omnibus Appropriations Act approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Anoka County Commissioner and Vice-Chair of the Rail Alliance, Dan Erhart, encouraged the board to get behind the project, because of its long term benefits.
The Rail Alliance will meet in Pine County again in March.