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Push for Return of Failed Duluth Passenger Train Reaches State Capitol

Old rail lines never die. They keep chugging along, powered by just enough taxpayer funding for the required environmental and operational studies to maintain bureaucratic momentum over the years. Then out of nowhere comes a PR offensive this week to herald the return of the failed Amtrak passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Twin Ports with a series of public events at both ends of the line, including the State Capitol. A top Amtrak official will hold an open-house today at the Duluth Depot with a pitch to turn back the clock to the 1980s defunct Northstar line. Now rebranded...

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Amtrak Launches New Effort to Revive Failed Passenger Line to Duluth

Amtrak's operating loss for 2018 came in at $168 million--and they're proud of it. Never mind that the passenger line would be even more in the red if the cost of depreciation and other expenses were included. Yet it's the lowest operating loss ever since the inception of the taxpayer-subsidized rail line in 1972, cause for celebration in their world. All told, it was "the best performance in Amtrak’s history," Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson said in an interview. With the bar set low, it should be no surprise that Amtrak officials want to revive another money-losing passenger rail line that used to connect...

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Cold Snap Exposes Green Cars’ Power Problems

The cold snap continues to be the gift that keeps on giving by exposing the weaknesses and  dangerous implications of over-reliance on renewable energy sources. American Experiment policy fellow Isaac Orr recently summed up the risks revealed by the "brownout" that hit many Xcel Energy customers in the pages of the Star Tribune. This week’s bitter cold had the potential to be deadly. But thanks to reliable forms of energy like coal, natural gas and nuclear power, it wasn’t. Lawmakers considering doubling Minnesota’s renewable energy mandate to 50 percent by 2030 should use this week’s weather as a moment to reconsider their...

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I love my personal transportation vehicle

Today was a normal February day in Minnesota; it was about 10 degrees, with heavy drifting and blowing snow, and the roads had patches of ice left over from freezing rain on Sunday. We’ve had some variation on that wintry theme the last few weeks. We have all missed time at work, school and everyday to-dos. I have prudently chosen when and when not to drive. But I had things to do, places to be today, and I like driving in snow. So, I blew through the day (carefully) in this amazing thing called a car. It is made of steel, hard...

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Metro Transit: The most dangerous LRT system in America?

This post originally appeared at katana community on January 24, 2019. This last Friday you may have seen a story on KARE11 or KSTP about how a Metro Transit Light Rail Transit (LRT) driver killed Nicholas Westlake in July 2017 when the train's driver blew through a clear stop signal and broadsided Westlake's car.  Representative Linda Runbeck of Circle Pines is now introducing a bill in the Minnesota House that would allow criminal charges to be brought against LRT drivers in such situations, as state law currently disallows this.(!) I recommend you  watch the stories to get the full details. But the detail I want to...

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MN City Battles Feds and State to Close Small Airport

The city of Silver Bay can no longer afford the luxury of spending $35,000 a year maintaining a municipal airport. “I’ve got 20 some miles of 50-year old road,” Silver Bay Mayor Scott Johnson said. “Don’t you think I should spend some maintenance on that instead of the airport?” But neither can the small northeastern Minnesota city afford to close the deteriorating airfield, faced with the threat of $10,000 a day in fines by the Federal Aviation Administration and a bill for $760,000 in “free” government grants the feds and state want to claw back. “I think they’re (the FAA) is going to...

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Bigger Boondoggle, MNLARS or Kirk Cousins?

The Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) was supposed to be the future for our state. Instead of long lines, bad waiting room music, and having to take time off work to run to the DVS, MNLARS promised all of these functions could be easily, and affordably, be transferred over to an efficient, secure, online service. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out that way. MNLARS has gotten better since its disastrous roll-out in 2017, but it is hard to argue the service is worth the $93 million already paid out for the program. What's worse, officials from the Dayton Administration estimated the additional...

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