The return of passenger rail service from the Twin Cities to Duluth is a step closer to reality Friday after Federal transportation officials announced $5 million for the Northern Lights Express project.
Former Minnesota DFL Rep. James Oberstar has been seeking restoration of the passenger rail project for eight years, and said the federal money — along with $3 million in state funds — will pay for the next phase of the project.
The money will be used for preliminary engineering and environmental studies, Oberstar said. A next step, he said, is talks to secure track easements.
"Engage Burlington Northern Sante Fe in discussions about the nature of the service and to work a long-term agreement for passenger rail service in this freight rail corridor," he said.
Passenger service could begin in five years. Amtrak cancelled passenger service on the route nearly 25 years ago.