Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Northern Lights Express

Proposed passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth, MN

Preliminary engineering and Tier 2 environmental review

The next phase of environmental review and documentation for the NLX Project is expected to begin this summer. The environmental review is divided into two stages:

  • Tier 1 – System Level Environmental Assessment was completed in 2013 and focused on impacts that affect the corridor as a whole. A Finding of No Significant Impact was issued by the Federal Railroad Administration on August 21, 2013, for the Tier 1 System Level EA.
  • Tier 2 – Project Level Environmental Assessment will begin this summer and focus on site specific impacts and mitigation. This work includes the environmental review for proposed stations, layover and maintenance facilities, and any refinements of engineering or more detailed environmental review than was completed in the Tier 1 EA. Initial locations for proposed stations and other facilities were identified in the Tier 1 EA, and MnDOT staff will meet with communities along the corridor this spring to discuss and confirm those sites, or identify potential concerns. MnDOT is planning to hire an environmental consultant to assist with the Tier 2 EA work, including further analysis and concept plans for proposed stations and other facilities. The environmental consultant is anticipated to be selected later this spring and begin work in mid-summer.

Preliminary engineering is expected to begin this summer for any roadway or bridge that would be affected by track construction for the Northern Lights Express Project. The areas that will be focused on are those locations where the construction of a second mainline track or extension of a siding involves an at-grade rail crossing. The BNSF Railway will perform any necessary preliminary engineering within the limits of their right-of-way. To help with the preliminary engineering, MnDOT has begun the process of hiring an engineering consultant, who is anticipated to begin work this summer.