Changes to a proposed high-speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Duluth will slash the cost of the project by as much as half.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance revealed the new projected cost for the Northern Lights Express is now between $500-600 million, down from a previous estimate of $1 billion.
The cost savings have been achieved by cutting down the number of proposed daily trips between the cities from eight round trips to four, and by reducing the speed of the service from 110 mph to 90 mph.
MPR reports this would eliminate the need to build an extra track, with the service running on existing lines, while reducing the number of places freight trains would have to move out of the way.
And the rail alliance, who made the announcement in conjunction with both the Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation departments, believes the reduction in services and speed won't impact passenger numbers.
It expects in 2020, the possible first year of operation, that between 700,000 and 750,000 trips will be taken on the 152-mile line – and that could rise to 1 million riders by 2040.
Traveling at 90 mph and making stops in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Hinckley and Superior, the entire length of the journey would be 2.5 hours, similar to the journey by car, and would cost $25-30.
MPR notes the federal government is expected to pay for 80 percent of the eventual price tag.
KBJR reports that MnDOT is currently halfway through the environmental review process, but hopes to start work on the new rail system in two years and have it running in five.