It was a great week for proponents of the Northern Lights Express rail project as it now appears very likely that a passenger train that runs from Minneapolis to the Twin Ports will come to fruition.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has said that funding for the estimated  $592.3 million project would be 80% federally funded, with the state funding the remaining 20%. That money has now become available for the project to move forward.

FOX 9 and other sources are reporting state lawmakers approved $195 million in state dollars this week, which then unlocks federal grants that are expected to pay for the remaining 80 percent of the Northern Lights Express project.

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MnDOT says the Northern Lights Express, which will be run by Amtrak, will make four round trips each day between Minneapolis and Duluth. It will also stop in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Hinckley, and Superior, Wisconsin. When service begins, a one-way ticket between Minneapolis and Duluth will cost about $30 - $35.

The train will operate at speeds up to 90 miles per hour. A one-way trip between the Twin Cities and Twin Ports is expected to take about 2½ hours. This is comparable to how long driving a vehicle would take, only without the worries of rush hour traffic or bad weather.

MnDOT expects 700,00 to 750,000 people to ride the train in the first year. In 20 years, it is estimated that ridership will be about 1 million per year. These numbers take into account how likely someone is to take the train instead of driving. Other factors include age, gender, car ownership, cost of gas, and reason for travel.

The Northern Lights Express rail project is expected to create 3,000 construction jobs and 500 other jobs each year for the first five years. Additionally, $400 million in tourism revenue is expected, supporting about 250 jobs per year and wages of $250 million over 40 years.

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