The proposed Northern Lights Express to Duluth has run up against some conservative political challenges recently. Three city council members in Duluth had put forward a proposal to dissolve the Minneapolis–Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance, but the proposal was rejected on March 28th. The council also continued support for $190,000 in local funding for the line. Apparently this has been part of a pattern recently—the third time these councilors have tried it in the last 4 months.
On the statewide funding front, one of the more egregious proposals put forth in the Minnesota House was one by Larry Howes of Walker, Minnesota, which was intended to pull back state funding from a number of projects—some of which had originally gotten money back in 1994. The proposal appears to have died out because there wasn't a companion senate bill.
The total amount of reclaimed cash from the bill would have been $51 million, of which $26 million was allocated in 2009 for rail projects across the state including the NLX, the Twin Cities to Chicago route, and Twin Cities to Rochester. It looks like Mn/DOT is planning to spend the $26 million this year. $9 million will go to the NLX project, and is expected to be used as part of a 20% state & local match for a pot of federal funding—The state, local, and federal funds will cover most or all of the $65 million needed to do preliminary engineering work along the line.
Rail projects in Minnesota have potentially taken a hit under the senate's budget bill: Funding for Mn/DOT's Passenger Rail Office, which has only been in existence for a few years, was cut from $1 million to $600,000.
Oh, and just as a side note—there has been a bug in the RSS feed system on the Northern Lights Express website which posts articles on the correct day and month, but doesn't pay any attention to the year. An article popped up last month showing that in 2009, Tim Pawlenty supported Barack Obama's plan for high-speed rail in the United States.