It was the beginning of millions of federal and state dollars being spent on a form of publicly funded transportation that would never serve most of the counties that paid those yearly dues.
The board of county commissioners who took on the name “NLX Alliance” waxed and waned. Three of them have died over the 12 years the alliance milked tax dollars from the counties of St. Louis, Lake, Pine, Isanti, Anoka and Hennepin in Minnesota and Douglas in Wisconsin, and the cities of Minneapolis, Duluth-Superior, Sandstone and Cambridge.
Several local governments have dropped out of the coalition, but most continued to go along for the ride at their taxpayers’ expense.
The alliance hired feasibility studies, consultants, planning and engineering firms, federal and state lobbyists.
A new state agency, the passenger-rail division of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), was created for NLX to the tune of $500,000 per year, though it produces nothing and oversees nothing. Minnesota’s yearly omnibus/lights-on bills have continued to fund MnDOT’s passenger-rail bureau.
Surveys were taken and performed. However, central Minnesotans weren’t part of the survey unless they happened to be in Minneapolis. If memory serves me, the survey was done at the Mall of America.
The columnist’s thesis statement hit home most of all.
Keep in mind, when a company or individual is hired to do a survey or report, it isn’t asked to prove why something can’t work; it’s hired to find ways to massage information to prove the thing can work.
Step by step, Gussie’s op-ed dismantles any pretense of a financially sustainable project. Yet NLX continues to move ahead, powered by millions more wasted tax dollars in Gov. Walz’s budget proposal.