Skip to main content

All aboard? High-speed train from Twin Cities to Duluth under study


Imagine being able to ride a train from the Twin Cities to Duluth, and make it there in two hours.

A proposal to build high-speed passenger train service between the two metro areas is gaining momentum as state officials gather feedback from communities along the likely route.

The project is called the Northern Lights Express, and it's actually been under discussion for several years.

But the planning for it didn't really get underway in earnest until 2011, when the project received a $5 million grant from the federal government to pay for preliminary engineering and environmental work.

The trains would run on existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight rails and connect downtown Minneapolis with downtown Duluth at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour.

The current plan calls for stations in four communities along the route to drop off and pick up passengers – Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Hinckley and Superior, Wisconsin.

Minnesota transportation officials scheduled open houses in those communities over the past week or so to hear what local residents had to say, and talk about where the train stations might be located.

At Thursday's open house in Superior, resident Thom Reistad said he likes the idea so far.

"If we get people back and forth from the Twin Ports to the Twin Cities in a hurry, that's just going to be awesome for our area," said Reistad, according to the Northland News Center.

It would also make it easier for the people who need to travel between the two destinations.

According to WCCO, between 20,000 and 30,000 vehicles drive on Interstate 35 from the Twin Cities to Duluth, or vice versa, every day. Depending on the weather and the traffic, the trip can take nearly three hours.

One of those regular drivers is Nancy Lara, who told WCCO she thinks the high-speed train is a good idea.

“It would be a quick and easy way to go, and I wouldn’t have to drive. I think it would really be nice,” Lara said.

The last open house is in Hinckley on Wednesday, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Hinckley Finlayson High School.

There's still quite a long way to go to see if the Northern Lights Express will become a reality.

The current engineering and environmental studies will be done in 2016, and then the project will need to apply for federal funds to help pay the cost, according to MnDOT.

If all that goes off without a hitch, construction could begin by 2017 and the trains could begin running in 2020.

Next Up

Karl-Anthony Towns

KAT sets a franchise record, leaves early in loss to Wizards

Towns fell on his back in the final minutes of a loss in Washington.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Man shot by police in Forest Lake dies from injuries

It was one of two police shootings in the Twin Cities on the same day, both of which proved fatal.

Dylan Bundy

Report: Twins agree to deal with Dylan Bundy

The Twins signed the right-hander with a lockout imminent.

Flickr - face masks covid pole - Ivan Radic

'Everyone should really be masking up' in public, Malcolm says

The health commissioner said residents have gotten "a little bit lax" with some protective measures.

Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton believes he's the best player in baseball

"Nobody [does] the things that I do. I know that."

unsplash medical marijuana

Edibles coming to Minnesota's medical marijuana program

MDH also announced it will not add anxiety as qualifying condition.

plow, snowplow, snow

Plowable snow possible this weekend in Minnesota

Up to half a foot of snow could fall within the heaviest band.

Best Buy - jjbers, Flickr

Police reveal new details about 'coordinated' Best Buy thefts

A large group stole thousands of dollars in merchandise from three Twin Cities Best Buy stores.

Seven Points exterior - 2

New tenant revealed for former Libertine spot in Uptown

The space will combine playful art offerings with a restaurant.

white Christmas

What are Minnesota's chances of a white Christmas this year?

The Twin Cities averages a white Christmas about 3 out of every 4 years.

ilhan omar press conference voicemail screengrab 11.30.21

'You will not live much longer b***': Rep. Omar shares threatening voicemail

Omar's office received the call hours after Rep. Boebert posted her video about the MN congresswoman.

Screen Shot 2021-12-01 at 11.24.09 AM

ESPN's 'Booger' makes fun of Wild fans' record cup snake

He's the same guy who thought the "Minneapolis Miracle" was bad for the Vikings.