Northern Lights Express Remains Optimistic After Minnesota Senate Votes for No Funding in Next Budget
DULUTH, Minn. – Supporters of the Northern Lights Express rail project were not shocked by Monday’s vote by the Minnesota Senate to not include finding for it in the next state budget.
“What happened in the Senate this week was not unexpected,” says Ken Buehler, Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee for Northern Light Express. “We saw this coming, we’re prepared for this, and we’re moving on.”
Any funding that is approved would go towards improving the rail lines that Northern Lights Express would use in the future to have high-speed passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and the Twin Ports. If the Senate’s funding version remains, it would not only jeopardize who can work on this project at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, but it would also prevent access to $340 million from the federal government approved when it passed its infrastructure bill last year.
Buehler adds that funding would work through Amtrak’s $16 billion to help facilitate pair expansion, a program to connect two cities in locations where driving it too far and flying is too short, meaning rail service can provide an option for travelers. “That’s money is going to be spent somewhere in America. Minnesota sends more money to Washington that we get back. So what that means is some pair cities somewhere in America is going to get Amtrak service paid for by Minnesota taxpayers.”
Buehler says he and other supporters point to the Minnesota House’s budget bill, which approved $85 million for the project, as well as continued support from Governor Walz when they met with him last week.
Overall, Buehler says the issue will be resolved over the next several weeks as the final work is done in the Minnesota Legislature on the state’s next budget. “So three different entities will figure this out. The Senate, with its version that is not NLX friendly, the House, which is extremely NLX friendly and has the full funding in it, and the Governor that says the office supports it. So two out of three, we’re still alive.”
Overall, Buehler says the Minnesota Senate’s vote will not stop work towards the Northern Lights Express return to service. “NLX is not dead. This is something that we had expected. It will be more difficult, but it is not impossible because we know that the vast majority of the people we talk to are in favor of this. This is a transportation system that works the world over, and to think that we’re any different in this country or this state is preposterous. This will work. It will be built.”