NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby Jeff Smith » Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:16 pm

After cutting projected costs and service levels, some progress: Duluth News Tribune

Northern Lights Express passenger train back on track?

The primary reason: a reduced price tag, from an estimated $1 billion in 2009 to between $500 million to $600 million today, according to Frank Loetterie, project manager in the passenger rail office for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which is now the project's lead agency.

In an interview, Loetterie said the savings can be achieved by two alterations to the original plan: reducing the top speed from 110 mph to 90 mph and cutting the number of daily round trips from eight to four.

"When we're operating at 110 mph we need our own track; we can't share it with a freight train," Loetterie said. "The original plan included the construction of a parallel track over 50 miles between Isanti and Hinckley."

The 90 mph top speed would produce an average, with stops factored in, of 60 mph and roughly match driving time, he said.
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Dec 26, 2015 8:35 pm

I'd support that plan. Considering that the Builder tops out at 79, a 90 mph NLX is pretty nice.

Speaking of, MnDOT, when do the CP River Sub and BNSF Northern Transcon get some 90 mph love?
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby Jeff Smith » Wed May 25, 2016 2:09 pm

In the news: Star Tribune

Northern Lights Express linking Twin Cities to Duluth quietly hums along
...
Environmental fieldwork for the Northern Lights Express high-speed passenger rail line between Minneapolis and Duluth is expected to begin this month. The price tag for the project is between $500 million and $600 million, but that has yet to be secured from federal and local sources.

Amtrak’s North Star service was discontinued along that route in 1985 because of flagging ridership and service problems. But there’s been talk about reviving the service at least since 1989, according to past Star Tribune stories.

Four daily roundtrips

The Minnesota Department of Transportation, which is leading the Northern Lights charge, said the proposed line will operate on 152 miles of existing BNSF Railway track. If built, the train would take about 2.5 hours (about the same as driving to Duluth) traveling at speeds up to 90 mph.

The line would start at Target Field Station, with stops in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Hinckley (serving the Grand Casino), Duluth and Superior, Wis. Four round trips are planned daily, and the service would be operated by Amtrak.
...
Next stop, Willoughby
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Wed May 25, 2016 2:28 pm

Jeff Smith wrote:
Four round trips are planned daily, and the service would be operated by Amtrak.

That's new! I wonder how much cheaper it was to contract for Amtrak's right-of-access than to use BNSF or a third party.

Also, I wonder when the powers-that-be will add the Minneapolis Target Field to St. Paul Union Depot leg (push-pull, discharge-only.) It's silly to have an intrastate service that's explicitly disconnected from the national network, especially when MnDOT is making a push for increased Empire Builder connectivity. Besides, if Amtrak takes care of maintenance (not unlikely), the trainset would be serviced at St. Paul Midway which is over halfway to SPUD anyway.
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby Ridgefielder » Tue Jun 14, 2016 11:33 am

Is there an issue w. freight congestion between Target Field Station & St. Paul Union? The former GN passenger main that was the direct connection (via the Stone Arch Bridge) is long gone, I know.
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Jun 14, 2016 12:16 pm

Re: congestion, yes and no.

The route is moderately congested, but mostly only where the Minnesota Commercial (MNNR) and the BNSF cross in Midway. BNSF uses the space to assemble MNNR interchange traffic and the St. Paul Intermodal Yard, and there is only one through track for a short distance under Raymond Avenue.

Otherwise, the ex-GN BNSF is double-tracked from TFS to Midway and seems to move relatively fast (at least for the Builder), and both the MNNR and CP ex-MILW are uncongested despite being single-track. Any future TFS-SPUD passenger connection would probably require remodeling the junction between BNSF and MNNR though.
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby Rockingham Racer » Tue Jun 14, 2016 12:48 pm

It would be difficult to serve both Target and SPUD without a back-up move, correct?
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby Ridgefielder » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:21 pm

Pretty much impossible, I believe. You'd have to take a huge loop, west on the BNSF (ex-GN) main, then southwest on the TCWR (ex-MILW) to a junction w the SOO (ex-Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern) heading south to Savage. At Savage, you'd pick up the UP (ex-CNW, nee CMStP&O) heading north along the Minnesota River to bring you into St. Paul. That's probably a 40 mile loop (and there are probably some missing wye legs in there that would need to be replaced) to get you from one place to the other.

Pretty much all of the passenger trackage that used to reach into downtown Minnie to reach the Great Northern depot on Hennepin & 1st St. and the Milwaukee Road depot on Washington & 3rd Ave's was torn up in the 1970's, after Amtrak came in.
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Jun 14, 2016 6:00 pm

Practically speaking, it is impossible - the MNS Savage swing bridge approaches are not in service, though the bridge itself is (was recently) operable. Also, I think the old MNS connection allowing west-to-south and north-to-east trains was ripped out.

Shame Minneapolis didn't include a downtown (West Bank of the Mississippi) railroad station in their master plan ca. 1978 or even ca. 1988. The land was open through the 1990s to use the Milwaukee Road Depot or its Freight House, or at least build a station next to the Metrodome, and to majorly reconstruct the Washington Avenue viaduct to improve clearance. If the city fathers were fed up with the viaduct altogether, the NP Bridge No. 9 could have carried passenger trains back across the river to BN and MILW rails.

That said, push-pull pretty much makes the lack of a through line a moot point.
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby Jeff Smith » Mon Oct 17, 2016 3:00 pm

Open Houses: Star Tribune

State briefs: Minneapolis-Duluth rail project to hold four open houses
...
The open houses will provide information on proposed safety improvements and changes to the 169 railroad grade crossings and an update on the project work and schedule. Project staff will be available but there will be no formal presentations. The project would operate on approximately 152 miles of existing railway track.

The open houses will be held in Hinckley on Oct. 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Hinckley-Finlayson High School, 201 Main St. E.; in Cambridge on Oct. 19 at the Cambridge City Center Mall, 140 Buchanan St. N.; in Askov on Oct. 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Pine County History Museum, 6333 H C Andersen Alle; and in Superior, Wis., on Oct. 25, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Superior Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St.
...
Next stop, Willoughby
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby Jeff Smith » Sat Mar 11, 2017 2:48 pm

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/4 ... al-funding

...
That means securing federal funding expected to cover 80 percent of the total project development cost, estimated at between $500 million and $600 million. Environmental assessments of the 152 miles of BNSF Railway track will be completed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in June, a milestone that makes the project eligible for funding. The NLX avoided needing more rigorous environmental impact statements because the track already exists and is put to use daily by BNSF freight trains.

"We could run 90 mph right now on the track structure itself," said Frank Loetterle, project manager for MnDOT's Passenger Rail Office in St. Paul. "It is in very good shape."

All things being favorable would put the NLX in operation by 2020, organizers say. But for the dream to further materialize, big developments still need to unfold.
...
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:53 pm

I wonder what BNSF thinks of the 90 mph assertion :P
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sun Mar 12, 2017 6:23 am

Me too. Are they planning to use the non-signaled Hinckley Sub?
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Mar 12, 2017 7:48 am

Yep, so no matter what Mr. Loetterle thinks about the track, 59 mph is it for the moment.
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Re: NLX Northern Lights Express HSR MN Duluth-Twin Cities

Postby electricron » Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:13 am

What do you think the $500 million was going to be spent on? I'm very sure some of it was to add signals to the tracks, and add barriers and lights to the highway intersections.
Amazing how much cheaper 90 mph max speeds is than 110 mph max speeds. ;)
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