Northern Lights Express Program/Project Management Oversight

The NLX project is being led by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation
and the Minneapolis-Duluth/SuperiorPassenger Rail Alliance. The Tier 1 Service-Level Environmental Assessment (EA) was recently completed and a Finding of No Significant Impact issued, allowing the NLX Project to transition into the preliminary engineering and Tier 2 project level environmental review phases of project development.

Services Provided

Program / Project Management

Quandel Consultants is providing program/project management oversight, coordination of preliminary engineering activities, Tier 2 environmental assessment, operations analysis, ridership and revenue projections, overall financial plan, and project implementation for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Northern Lights Express project. The NLX is a proposed higher speed rail intercity passenger service that will operate between Minneapolis and St Paul, MN.


Quandel is assisting MnDOT in the procurement and management of consultants to prepare ridership forecasts and financial planning; preliminary engineering of intersecting roadways and overhead bridges; preliminary engineering of stations, layover and maintenance facilities; procurement of equipment; identification of a system operator; and Tier 2 Project Level environmental review. Upon completion of the PE/NEPA phase of the Project, Quandel will update the Service Development Plan.


Quandel is managing coordination between MnDOT and the BNSF Railway Quandel is also preparing conceptual engineering plans, including detailed horizontal track geometry for the corridor, and assessing corridor capacity and infrastructure improvement requirements through the use of RTC software.


As part of the PMO assignment, Quandel employed the Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) to validate the minimum infrastructure solutions needed to operate passenger trains on schedule with minimal impact to the BNSF freight operations. Using the RTC, Quandel replicated existing rail corridor operations, measured locomotive and train performance, tested rail corridor capacity, diagnosed bottlenecks, Identified time savings achieved from employing faster network speed limits, developed passenger service schedules and operating plan for the NLX, .planned efficient non-revenue train moves to reduce non-revenue train mile, .evaluated the effects of additional passenger service on existing freight and passenger rail networks and investigated the effectiveness of track and signal infrastructure improvements.