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Is High Speed Rail Right For Pine County?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 at 7:21 am

picture-593The 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.

nlxmapThe proposed line, called the Northern Lights Express (NLX), may have as many as two stops in Pine County.  Preliminary plans indicate possible stops in Sandstone and Hinckley.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Sam Griffith, Sandstone

Sam Griffith, Sandstone

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.

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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.

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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.

Dan Erhart, Anoka

Dan Erhart, Anoka

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.

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The Rail Alliance will meet in Pine County again in March.

1 Comment

  1. James Willmus 07/21/10 at 2:16pm

    my uncle lives near the town of hinckley and I am into the hobby of modeling trains. a high speed rail line sounds like a good Idea but there are several things to consider. A. will enough people ride to pay for it? that explains itself. B.where will it stop? there should probably be several stops considering its a high speed rail system an can go from minneapolis to duluth in one and a half hours. C.how and where will it expand? just like all raillines, there will be branch lines too at some point so it is essential to choose a path that can easily branch to other areas like the wisconsin Dells. D. don’t forget about wild life, if a train hits a dear going 100mph the dear will literaly punch through the locomotive so an elevated lind would be best. and E. what about residents around the tracks? don’t build it where a population has to hear a loud,fast train they could sue. please consider these things when you get around to planing it. james j willmus.

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