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Minnesota’s Northern Lights High Speed Rail Project Receives $5 million from USDOT – Sept. 9, 2011

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a $5 million grant to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to complete preliminary engineering and environmental reviews for the Northern Lights high-speed rail project between Minneapolis and Duluth. The 155-mile project will have station stops in Coon Rapids, Isanti, Cambridge, Hinckley, Boylston and Duluth, MN, through Superior, WI, and travel at speeds up to 110 mph. As part of this grant, the Minnesota Department of Transportation must complete an environmental review for the corridor. The U.S. Department of Transportation had already provided grants of $2.2 million and $500,000 for the initial phases of that environmental review. The Minnesota Department of Transportation will contribute $3 million to the preliminary engineering/project environmental review phase of the project.

FRA Obligates $600,000 of Capital Assistance to States to MnDOT

In September 2011, the Federal Railroad Administration obligated Fiscal Year 2009 Capital Assistance to States funding to develop an Environmental Impact Statement, required under the National Environmental Act, for the segment of the Twin Cities-Milwaukee high-speed rail corridor between Minneapolis and Milwaukee. This is a segment of the Twin Cities-Chicago high-speed rail corridor. Minnesota DOT is contributing $600,000 of non-federal funding for the project. This project selection was announced in January 2010.

Statewide Freight and Passenger Rail Plan receives national award

The 2009 Minnesota Comprehensive Statewide Freight and Passenger Rail Plan, a strategic vision for enhancing the movement of people and freight and improving access to goods and services, recently received a national Transportation Planning Excellence Award. The award was presented in July 2010 by the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the American Planning Association at the Transportation Research Board meeting in Minneapolis.

“In developing this comprehensive state rail plan, we have created a map for commodity movement by rail as well as a passenger rail network of linked routes that will improve travel times, energy conservation, environmental impacts, and traveler convenience throughout the region,” said Tom Sorel, MnDOT commissioner.

MnDOT was one of 11 winners of the biennial award, which recognizes outstanding initiatives nationwide that develop, plan and implement innovative transportation planning practices. Ninety projects competed for the award.

Using data and planning analysis from the state rail plan, MnDOT and its partners submitted grant applications for rail-related projects to the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program. As a result, the state received funding for the completion of the St. Paul Union Depot. Minnesota also was awarded the only basic high-speed planning grant in the country from first round stimulus funding for development of the Chicago-Twin Cities corridor.