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Public meetings set for Northern Lights Express Tier 2 Project Level Environmental Assessment
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Public meetings set for Northern Lights Express Tier 2 Project Level Environmental Assessment

The Tier 2 Environmental Assessment (EA) of the proposed Northern Lights Express (NLX) connecting Duluth/Superior to the Twin Cities is now available for public review and comment. Public meetings will be held May 16-18, and written comments on the Tier 2 Project Level EA are due by May 24, 2017.

The document, which builds on an earlier EA of the project from 2013, was released by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. It’s a necessary step to meet federal and state environmental requirements to advance the NLX project into further design and project development. 

The Tier 2 EA documents the purpose and need of the project along with the anticipated social, economic, transportation, and environmental impacts.  It addresses specific project-related issues and likely environmental effects associated with proposed track infrastructure, stations, and layover and maintenance facilities and measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate these impacts.

The NLX Tier 2 Project Level EA document is available on the project website and at local government offices and libraries throughout the corridor (see the full list below).

Comments sent by the May 24 deadline can be emailed to nlx.dot@state.mn.us or mailed to Francis Loetterle, MnDOT, 395 John Ireland Boulevard, MS 470, St. Paul, MN 55155.

The proposed Northern Lights Express service would operate four roundtrips daily at speeds up to 90 miles per hour on approximately 152 miles of existing BNSF railway track from Target Field in Minneapolis to Duluth with stops in Coon Rapids-Foley, Cambridge, Hinckley, and Superior, Wis. Ridership estimates for the first year of service, 2020, are between 700,000 and 750,000 rides, rising to between 900,000 and 1 million rides by 2040. Two trainsets – each with six coaches and a push-pull equipped locomotive – would provide service, with a third trainset in reserve.

Initial capital investment is estimated at $547 million (in 2014 dollars); operating and maintenance costs are estimated at $17 million (in 2017 dollars) for 2020.

MIPRC supports the Northern Lights Express project as another crucial link in bringing faster, more frequent passenger rail service to our region, and to building a high-quality 21st century multi-modal transportation system in our region and nation.

Minnesota DOT is hosting public meetings to provide information on the Tier 2 Project Level EA, answer questions and offer an opportunity for public comment. There will be no formal presentation. Public meetings will be held at the following times and locations:

Sandstone
Tuesday, May 16, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Sandstone Senior Center
206 Main St., Sandstone, MN

Duluth*
Wednesday, May 17, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Duluth Depot
506 West Michigan St., Duluth, MN

Coon Rapids
Thursday, May 18, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Coon Rapids Civic Center
11155 Robinson Dr. Northwest, Coon Rapids, MN

*The public meeting in Duluth will also serve as a public hearing to meet requirements under Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter TRANS 400.11, Distribution and Review of Environmental Documents. The format and information provided at the Duluth meeting will be the same as the meetings in Sandstone and Coon Rapids.

To request an ASL interpreter, call (651) 366-4720. To request other reasonable accommodations, call (651) 366-4718; the Minnesota Relay Service toll-free at 1-800-627-3529 (TTY, Voice or ASCII) or 711, or email your request to ADArequest.dot@state.mn.us.

In addition to the NLX project website, the Tier 2 Project Level EA can be viewed at these locations:
• MnDOT Library, MnDOT Transportation Building, 395 John Ireland Boulevard, St. Paul
• Cambridge Public Library 244 South Birch Street, Cambridge
• Coon Rapids Crooked Lake Branch Library, 11440 Crooked Lake Boulevard NW, Coon Rapids
• Duluth Public Library, 520 W. Superior Street, Duluth
• Hennepin County Library – Minneapolis Central, Environmental Conservation Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
• Hinckley Public Library, 106 First Street SE, Hinckley
• Sandstone Public Library, 119 N. Fourth Street, Sandstone
• Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Avenue, Superior, Wis.
• WisDOT Northwest Region Office, 1701 N. 4th Street, Superior, WI 
• WisDOT Transportation Library, 4802 Sheboygan Ave, Room 100A, Madison, WI

To request a document in an alternative format, call (651) 366-4718 or email ADArequest.dot@state.mn.us.

For more information about the Northern Lights Express project, visit www.mndot.gov/nlx.

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