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The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will present preliminary findings of the Northern Lights Express (NLX) Hinckley Loop Feasibility Study at a public meeting to be held Jan. 28 in Hinckley, Minn.MnDOT, in cooperation with the Northern Lights Express Alliance and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), studied the feasibility of an alternative alignment for a short section of the proposed NLX high-speed intercity passenger-rail route between Minneapolis and Duluth, which would operate on 155 miles of existing BNSF Railway Co. track. The NLX Hinckley Loop feasibility study examined the practicality of replacing a proposed station for downtown Hinckley with a station located at Grand Casino in the city, two miles east of the BNSF mainline. The direct casino connection is referred to as the "Hinckley Loop," MnDOT officials said in a press release.
In addition to route alignments, the study analyzed whether a direct link to the casino would result in sufficient ridership and revenue to justify the cost of constructing the loop.
In 2013, the NLX project advanced in several ways, including the initiation of the Hinckley Loop study. Also, the project moved into the preliminary engineering phase and the Tier 2 environmental review. In addition, after six years of leadership by the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance, the project lead transitioned to MnDOT as planned. MnDOT works in collaboration with the FRA, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the alliance.
Moreover, Quandel Consultants, a firm with high-speed rail experience, was hired to help MnDOT with project management oversight, and coordination of the preliminary engineering, Tier 2 environmental review and financial planning.
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