New infrastructure bill could be a roadblock for Northern Lights Express.
DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - Congress’s bipartisan infrastructure bill could mean more funding for several Northland projects.
One of those projects is the Northern Lights Express, a proposed railway between the Twin Ports and the Twin Cities that has been in the works for a few years.
When the bill was first introduced, Amtrak asked Congress for $80 billion to fund it and other railways nationwide.
The bill instead approved $66 billion.
According to Ken Buehler, Technical Advisory Chair of NLX, that means NLX is no longer guaranteed the funding and will need to compete against those other projects.
“To get that money, it’s now a competitive process, instead of Amtrak saying these are the pair cities that we want, now it’s a competition between all the pair cities that think they should have a train service across the country,” he said.
Still, Buehler is optimistic that his railway may finally see the light of day.
“We have an infrastructure bill that we haven’t had in two presidential administrations,” he said. “This train is coming, and when it does, its going to change everything.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar is happy with what was in the bill, saying she’s proud of the bipartisan work to get it passed.
She thinks Northern Lights Express will still happen.
“There’s significant funding for rail, actually the largest federal investment in our history for public transport and that’s both passenger and freight,” said Senator Klobuchar.
Klobuchar said $4 billion will come to Minnesota to improve state roads and highways.
She said that money could fund a revamp of the Blatnik Bridge, the Aerial Lift Bridge, and other roads and highways throughout the Northland.
Not every Northland lawmaker is as enthusiastic about the new bill.
Congressman Pete Stauber (R-MN08), who voted no on the bill, declined to do an interview, but said in a statement:
“Make no mistake; a vote for this “infrastructure” package is a vote for the reckless multi-trillion-dollar tax-and-spend spree. That’s why I voted NO.”
The bill will now go to President Biden’s desk for final approval.
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