Exciting Progress for Passenger Rail!

February 3, 2023

With just a month into the 2023 Minnesota Legislative session, there are several new exciting developments for Minnesota's passenger rail expansion:

1. The Governor recently announced his transportation budget, and in it is a recommendation of $15.1M in operating and other support for the 2nd Train Frequency between the Twin Cities and Chicago. This budget recommendation would cover the first four years of operating support, and is far greater than what was proposed last year. The state did receive a Federal Operating Grant to cover a large portion of the operating costs for the first three years, but the state would still need to cover some costs. This is an substantial development, and we are learning there is strong support in both the House and the Senate for the 2nd train.

2. New passenger rail legislation will be introduced shortly that would allow MnDOT to study new and expanded passenger rail corridors in Minnesota and connecting us to the upper Mid-West. These corridors include: extending the 2nd daily Twin Cities to Chicago train on a daytime schedule to St. Cloud and Fargo/Moorhead on the existing Amtrak Empire Builder route, new service between the Twin Cities and Kansas City, through Northfield, Albert Lea, and Des Moines, IA, a dedicated passenger main line between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and more. The bill will be authored in the House by Rep. Erin Koegel, and in the Senate by Senator Aric Putnam. If the bill is passed, MnDOT could complete these studies and will allow the state to apply for Federal Matching Grants to enable these new and expanded corridors, which is the same process used for the 2nd train.

3. The Northern Lights Express bill, new service from the Twin Cities to Duluth, MN, (SF 202 authored by Senator Jen McEwen), was heard in the Senate Transportation Committee recently. The bill provides state match of $99.9M, which would qualify for a $320M Federal Grant. This money would be for infrastructure costs of the Twin Cities to Duluth line, owned by the BNSF Railway, to enable passenger service at speeds of 90 mph. Many testified during the hearing, including Mayors along the line, including Mayor Paine from Superior, WI, the Milles Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Duluth Chamber of Commerce, several college students stating that more options were needed other than cars, and others, made the case. The bill was not voted on in the hearing but put forward for consideration in the Senate Transportation bill.

We will keep you posted on these exciting developments and others as they occur in this session. Stay Tuned!!