NLX rail project takes step forward

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI, on the Tier 1 service level environmental assessment for the Northern Lights Express high speed passenger rail project between Minneapolis and Duluth.

The administration’s issuance of a FONSI on Aug. 21 means the NLX project will not have significant environmental impacts and, therefore, can proceed to the preliminary engineering and Tier 2 project level environmental documentation phase.

The Tier 1 assessment examined the 155-mile project corridor for social, economic and environmental impacts. The proposed project includes constructing necessary infrastructure for a high-speed intercity passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth, with a portion traveling through Douglas County in Wisconsin. Trains will reach speeds of up to 110 mph.

Last spring, the assessment was made available for public comment, which was taken into consideration by the Federal Railroad Administration in preparing the FONSI. The finding is available at

Under the state environmental review process, the Minnesota Department of Transportation also has issued a “findings of fact and conclusion” and a “negative declaration,” indicating a state environmental impact statement is not required. The state documents are available at

Tier 2 project level environmental documentation and preliminary engineering will proceed during the next two years.

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