The bullet train is on track for Minnesota

Review Editor Rating: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local news comments online and in print every day. To contribute, click here.

•••

The pending Northern Lights Express (NLX) high-speed rail project from Duluth to the Twin Cities offers Governor Tim Walz and lawmakers a golden opportunity to partner with the federal government to revitalize Minnesota rail service and create thousands of jobs. well-paying jobs. , and connect businesses and consumers across the state.

The numbers add up. Of Minnesota’s $9 billion budget surplus, the state would put $85 million on the table. If the US Department of Transportation approves the project, the federal government would pay up to $340 million. Substantial safety improvements would occur on 152 miles of existing tracks and crossings between the Twin Cities and Duluth. That’s a return on investment.

The governor and lawmakers must move quickly to approve the $85 million and get the proposal to Washington. Competition is fierce for these funds, awarded by Congress under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. If Minnesota doesn’t act quickly, another state will reap the rewards. If we don’t act quickly, our taxpayers will effectively subsidize intercity passenger rail travel in another state.

Since pre-Civil War days, Minnesota’s business community – from Virginia to Duluth to the Twin Cities, Winona, Mankato, St. Cloud, Austin-Albert Lea and everywhere in between – has grown and thrived on the broad shoulders of our state. railroads.

By 1900, there were some 175 rail lines of varying lengths affordably linking nearly every community in Minnesota, regardless of size. Karlstad to Halma and back would cost you a penny. Same with Red Wing at Goodhue. Hop on the Soo Line in St. Paul in the evening and for less than the price of breakfast you could be in Thief River Falls, Bronson Lake or even Winnipeg before sunrise.

Rail mergers, branch line abandonments and, most notably, the automobile have eroded these services. But things are changing all over the world. China and Europe have been building and using high-speed rail for a generation. Here in America, you can hop on a high-speed train in Washington, DC, and be in New York in just over two hours. What a boon for business development.

Now Minnesota needs to catch up and keep up with the schedule. NLX is ready to be built.

With NLX, traveling from Twin Cities to Duluth becomes easy and affordable in just under 2 12 hours. Iron Chain and Duluth businessmen could travel quickly and efficiently year-round. Think what that would mean for military veterans in northeast Minnesota visiting the Minneapolis VA Medical Center for treatment. This is a game changer for students, seniors, sports enthusiasts, people with disabilities, and people looking for a weekend or night out in the Twin Cities or Duluth.

Think of how this rail line can connect workers in Coon Rapids, Cambridge and Hinckley to the Twin Cities.

And as Minnesota seeks to reduce its carbon footprint, Northern Lights Express would reduce the number of cars going up and down Interstate 35 and the freeway. 65 by thousands.

In short, there is everything to please in this opportunity. Govt. Walz and lawmakers — let’s get on board.

Peter Turok is President of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce. Jonathan Weinhagen is President and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. Matthew Baumgartner is President of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jose P. Rogers