Minnesota Republicans Kill Passenger Rail, Freeway Cap Projects

Republicans in the Minnesota State Senate blocked the planning of a proposed passenger rail route between Duluth and the Twin Cities in addition to a plan for a freeway cap in a historically Black neighborhood in St. Paul.

May 19, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

The Washington St Bridge in Minneapolis is shown with downtown Minneapolis in the background.

The Washington Street Bridge near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. | Arthur Greenberg / Shutterstock

The Minnesota State Senate voted earlier this month to block planning for an intercity passenger rail route connecting the Twin Cities Duluth,” reports Tim Pugmire for MPR News.

The route, known as the Northern Lights Express, was under development by the Minnesota Department of Transportation completed an environmental review and service development plan, approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2018.

In the end, the project’s demise was caused by partisan bickering (that culture war again) about the role of intercity rail in contemporary transportation systems. Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, authored the amendment prohibiting the planning for the Northern Lights Express, to a larger supplemental budget and policy bill.

“The Northern Lights passenger rail system is a bad idea that is a 19th century solution to transportation in Minnesota,” Osmek said. “It’s like asking us to spend money on buggy whips.”

The same larger policy and budget bill also featured the demise of the ReConnect Rondo project, a plan to build a “land bridge” (also called a freeway cap or freeway lid) in the historically Black neighborhood of Rondo in St. Paul over the Interstate 94 freeway. The ReConnect Rondo project had been approved for $6.2 million in planning by the governor and legislature last year.

“Bill sponsor Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said he opposes the funding because he believes the ReConnect Rondo project has nothing to do with transportation, and he was not part of last year’s agreement,” reports Pugmire.

Monday, May 2, 2022 in MPR News

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