"If the state really wants to make the trip up to Duluth even more enjoyable, add one more lane on I-35. And then up the speed limit to 75. The road is certainly safe enough to drive 75 on - it is straight and flat. Other than that, most of us flat lander types in Minnesota are just fine with the way things are."
(WARNING: The following post contains fantasy. Read at your own risk!)
I am so glad that Anoka County finally got with the program and agreed to help foot the cost of the Northern Lights Express (also known as the NLX). Most of us have waited simply years for the privilege of taking this shiny new train up through the heartland of Minnesota, all the way to Duluth. How much did it cost to build? Who knows and who cares. Some right wing nut ball said it cost over a billion dollars to build. Well, we showed him!
We really wanted to have this thing zip along the tracks at 110 mph. However, that would have meant replacing some of the track with newer track which could accommodate that speed. Big whoop. We just agreed to an average speed of 60 mph with a maximum speed of 90 mph. All is cool then. The train should be safe for all at that speed. And who cares if the average time to get from Minneapolis to Duluth is still 2 1/2 hours (just like driving)? Trains are fun to ride on.
There will be a few stops, but so what? Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Hinkley (for the donuts, not the casino!), Big Bear Casino (just to stretch our legs), Superior and then into Duluth. All this for the measly cost of $32/ticket (one way). That is not so bad. $64/ticket for round trip times four of us is only about $250. That is a bit more than driving, but not too much more - right?
(NOTE: Fantasy portion is now over - back to reality)
What is the Northern Lights Express really? A casino train. Forget all that BS about how it will help revitalize the north shore - it won't. It will be a bigger waste of money (if that is possible) than the North Star. Even with sky high prices for tickets, the cost to ride it will not cover the cost to run it. Bottom line? If the decision to build this train would have been a non-stop ride from Minneapolis to Duluth, it would have practically zero support. No casinos, no support.
Just last year, the NLX Passenger Alliance (whatever that is), proclaimed this boondoggle could be up and running by 2020. That is three years away. Back to the family of four for a minute who decided to take the train to Duluth. After paying over $250 for the tickets, what do you do once you get to Duluth? Duluth is a destination for some, and a stop over for many others who are headed further up the north shore. So if you get to Duluth and want to go no further, wear your comfy shoes - you are in for a whole lot of walking.
For the life of me, I don't understand this fascination with trains that some in this state have. My wife and I drive up to Duluth often, and love the drive. It is not that long, the speed limit is 70, and the rest stops are gorgeous. Once we are up there, we have the truck to take us where ever our hearts or minds lead us. When it is time to come home, we don't have to adhere to a train schedule, we just leave.
If the state really wants to make the trip up to Duluth even more enjoyable, add one more lane on I-35. And then up the speed limit to 75. The road is certainly safe enough to drive 75 on - it is straight and flat. Other than that, most of us flat lander types in Minnesota are just fine with the way things are.