Will Northern Lights Express Receive Funding this Legislative Session?
Duluth, Minn. –Duluth Senator Jennifer McEwen is leading the effort in the State Senate to get funding in the budget for Northern Lights Express (NLX). McEwen stressed the point that the project has broad support from a variety of people and places. “We have broad, bi-partisan support for this project and we have for some time,” said McEwen. “Some of us have come together on this project who generally do not see eye to eye in many other areas, but we’re all behind this project.”
Among those who testified on behalf of the project were Superior Mayor Jim Paine, a Minneapolis City Council member, the administrator of the City of Cambridge, and St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson. “This makes sense folks, this line flat makes sense. It makes business sense, it makes common sense. I urge this Senate committee to support this, said Nelson.”
The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates construction costs will be about $425 million with 80 percent of the funding coming from the Federal Government. The state would pay the remaining $85 million.
For at least five years Minnesota would subsidize NLX at $7 million dollars each year. John Jasinski, who represents South Central Minnesota is doubtful that NLX would meet ridership projections of 700 thousand to one million riders. ” An ongoing $7 million subsidy and I appreciate your numbers, I just don’t see that happening and that’s my concern,” said Jasinski.
The chair of the committee Scott Sibble, did not call for a vote. Instead he laid the file over for possible inclusion in the Budget Bill.