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Are Minnesota Taxpayers Being Taken for a Ride by Amtrak?

Most Minnesotans have likely never heard of the proposed $550 million Northern Lights Express (NLX) passenger rail line from the Twin Cities to Duluth-Superior. Yet MnDOT has been quietly laying the groundwork for the line for years with a series of engineering and environmental studies. Meantime, Gov. Walz has prioritized the project, requesting $15 million from the legislature to keep NLX on track. If NLX becomes a reality, MnDOT has made it clear that Amtrak would operate the 152-mile line on behalf of the state. In recent weeks Amtrak officials have surfaced in meetings with elected officials in Duluth-Superior and the...

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Stop Clear-Cutting of Trees for SWLRT: Residents Petition Gov. Walz

Something is up. The Met Council is spending $200,000 in taxpayer dollars on lobbyists to secure the federal funding. Why spend bucks on lobbyists if you are certain of funding? Maybe I was wrong to write that the federal funding train has left the station. I am happy to be wrong about that. Let's cheer these petitioning residents on. ...

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Rural Reporter Derails Star Tribune on New Amtrak Train to Duluth

The Star Tribune editorial board carries considerable weight as the voice of Minnesota's biggest media outlet. But the paper's recent endorsement of bringing back the failed Amtrak Twin Cities to Duluth-Superior passenger train just got derailed by a rural Pine County online website the ed board likely never heard of--PiCK News. PiCK stands for Pine County Knows News, run by longtime local reporter Ailene "Gussie" Croup, who's tracked the proposed Northern Lights Express (NLX) boondoggle from day one in 2007. She laid it on the line in a hard-hitting rebuttal run by the Star Tribune. It was the beginning of millions of...

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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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