A Minnesota project was awarded $5 million in federal passenger rail funding Monday.
The proposed Northern Lights Express line would run from Duluth to downtown Minneapolis. Northern Lights Board Chair Steve Rauker, a St. Louis County commissioner, says the $5 million will be used for engineering studies.
"These dollars are going to enable us to start phase one of the preliminary engineering process and to leverage an additional four to five million dollars from the state 2009 bonding appropriation which is set aside for high speed rail initiatives," he said.
Rauker said the line could be up and running in four years.
"We think we're still on target to have this project up and running by 2014 to 2015," he said. "I think that's realistic recognizing that this preliminary engineering process is going to take a good 12 months once we get it started in September or October of 2011, and once completed, we'll be eligible to apply for phase two of the preliminary engineering."
State officials estimate the 155-mile passenger rail service could cost as much as $990 million to build. The project was a favorite of former Eighth District Rep. James Oberstar, but his successor, Republican freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack, has not expressed the same level of support for Northern Lights.