An amendment to the Senate transportation omnibus bill passed last week that would restrict the ability of MNDOT and the Met Council to compete for $200 billion in nationwide, competitive grants available through the historic passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
The amendment, which passed 35-31, would prohibit Minnesota from spending IIJA federal dollars or matching state dollars on a proposed high-speed passenger rail project between Minneapolis and Duluth known as the Northern Lights Express.
This controversial amendment would put Minnesota at a competitive disadvantage for these federal dollars and forgo the good-paying jobs that such a project would bring to the state. The Legislature should be drafting a plan to bring more IIJA dollars to the state, not tying the hands of public employees who will be writing the grant proposals to draw down and match these funds.
High-speed rail to Duluth would create jobs, bring additional tourists to the Arrowhead region, and provide alternative transportation options with less greenhouse gas footprint than single-use vehicles.