Northern Lights Express High Speed Passenger Rail Project from Minneapolis to Duluth, Minnesota

Environmental Assessment & Finding of No Significant Impact

The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance (Alliance), in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), proposes to construct the necessary infrastructure for, and to operate, an approximately 155-mile long, high-speed intercity passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota. This service, known as the Northern Lights Express (NLX) service, would include eight round trips (16 trains) per day, operating at speeds up to 110 miles per hour. A portion of the service would travel through Douglas County in Wisconsin.

A Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Assessment (EA) was prepared by MnDOT in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Alliance and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). The EA was prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FRA’s Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (64 FR 28545), Minnesota Statutes 116D, Wisconsin Statutes Section 1.11, Wisconsin Administrative Code, TRANS 400. The EA evaluates the service-wide environmental impacts of the proposed action and sets the foundation for subsequent Tier 2 or project level NEPA documentation.

This project has received grants from the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program in the amount of $1.1 million, in addition to earmarks for $500,000 and $475,000. The completion of project level NEPA on discrete capital projects is required prior to the implementation of the proposed NLX service.

The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is being made at the Tier 1 Level. The FONSI describes the purpose and need for the proposed project, alternatives considered, public and agency coordination, and environmental consequences and identified mitigation.

Tier 2 Project Level Environmental Assessment

The FRA finds that the Tier 2 Project Level Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Northern Lights Express High Speed Passenger Rail Project from Minneapolis to Duluth, MN prepared by MnDOT, satisfies the requirements of FRA’s Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (64 FR 28545, May 26, 1999) and NEPA (42 USC § 4321). The Project as presented in the EA would have no foreseeable significant impact on the quality of the human or natural environment provided it is implemented in accordance with the commitments identified in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) signed by FRA on February 20, 2018.

As the Project sponsor, MnDOT is responsible for ensuring all environmental commitments identified in the FONSI are fully implemented. The EA provides sufficient evidence and analysis for FRA to determine that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required for the Project as presented.

NLX Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)

Tier 2 Project Level Environmental Assessment and Appendices

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