Welcome to the Northern Lights Express Passenger Rail Project

The Northern Lights Express, or NLX for short, is igniting imaginations around Minnesota and the nation. The proposed passenger rail service will:

  • Offer 2 1/4 hour service between Minneapolis and Duluth
    with top speeds of 110 mph;
  • Spur approximately $2 billion in development along the
    155 mile corridor;
  • Encourage about 13,800 jobs; and
  • Provide an environmental sound alternative to automobiles that can be used for business and tourism.


Northern Lights Express (NLX) is a proposed passenger rail project between the Minneapolis Transportation Interchange station and the City of Duluth, along Highway 65 and Interstate 35. The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance is a joint powers board formed to explore options for renewing passenger rail service on existing tracks in the 155 mile corridor.

The NLX Alliance and its community partners work with the MN Department of Transportation Passenger Rail & Environmental Services offices to advance the project.


  • NLX was among 22 successful applicants picked in May 2011 from nearly 100 requests to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project received a $5 million grant for engineering and environmental work.
  • In 2010, NLX was approved by the MN Department of Transportation to receive $3 million of the state's $26 million in bonding authority established in 2009.
  • $500,000 was appropriated by Congress for NLX in FY 2010.
  • $475,000 was designated for NLX in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
  • NLX received $1.1 million from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in its first Capital Assistance Grant Program, which gave NLX one-third of the total planning dollars available.
  • $900,000 of Minnesota bonding was leveraged with the $1.1 million from the FRA grant to start the environmental and preliminary engineering work.
  • Under President Bush's administration, NLX was designated one of eight top priorities for development by the National Passenger Rail Study Group, headed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
  • Local cities and counties in the corridor have invested more than $2 million

Next Steps

The $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded in May 2011 will help move the NLX project forward to the point where 30% of the engineering work is complete. To get there, the project will need to work on several aspects through 2015 including preliminary design for:

  • Stations, layover and maintenance facilities
  • Track improvements
  • Grade crossings



NLX Awarded a "Finding of No Significant Impact" from FRA Environmental Assessment PDF Print E-mail

A crucial milestone has been attained with the proposed Northern Lights Express passenger rail project.  The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI).  This document provides the green light to enter into preliminary engineering.

"The Tier 1 EA examined the 155-mile project corridor for social, economic and environmental impacts.  The proposed project includes constructing necessary infrastructure for a high-speed intercity passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn."

Read the full news release for more details.

NLX Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Assessment PDF Print E-mail

A public hearing and open house to discuss a proposed high-speed passenger rail service from Minneapolis to Duluth will be held Thursday, April 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Cambridge Armed Forces Reserve Community Center in Cambridge, Minnesota. The public is invited to learn more about and formally comment on the Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Northern Lights Express (NLX) service. Staff from MnDOT and the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance will be available at the April 4 meeting to answer questions about the proposed project. There will be no formal presentation. For additional meeting information or to learn how to send written comments on the EA, click here.

NLX Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Assessment

NLX Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Assessment Appendices


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