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Out of my Brian on the trian

"We're paying for what now?" (Image: Punch Magazine 1853)

So I was recently looking through my Duluth News Tribune (Official motto: "Look, as long as you get it within 24 hours, that's STILL same-day delivery!") when I saw a story about the passenger train service from Duluth to the Twin Cities. This report about the Northern Lights Express, or NLX for short, contained quotes from the project's spokesman, Ken Buehler (Official motto: "Shoveling a lot more than coal in the Twin Ports for over 30 years!").

After reading the article, a few thoughts entered my brain:

• This train thing is still around?

Ken Buehler is still around?

• "The Mystery of the Northern Lights Express" would make an excellent Hardy Boys adventure.

Eventually, these thoughts were shoved away by something more tangible and upon completion of that Morning Tangible (it was a prune breakfast, after all), I focused back on this fascinating story about our train.

It seems the NLX is literally still on track. Mr. Buehler was just reminding the taxpayers of Duluth (Official motto: "We're paying for what now?") that the cost of our involvement has fallen from $60,000 a year back in 2007 to a mere $9,000 this year. And what do we have to show for all that cash being doled out over the past decade? Well, according to Ken:

"We will have a shovel-ready project in June of this year. That's somewhat of a misnomer, because shovel-ready would indicate there's actually digging and work to be done, when we're really using rail that already exists."

Apparently all that money went to focus groups to come up with snazzy acronyms like NLX. It didn't have to be spent on tracks. Or trains. Or jobs.

Look, I don't mean to come off as Anti-Train. I like proposals that will help our city. But we've been paying for a wide variety of ideas for a long time. Schemes like the Tech Village, the Great Lakes Aquarium and the Red Plan were foisted on us before we even had a chance to form two simple questions: How much? And why?

The Norshor Theater, as mythical a Duluth enterprise as a Bob Dylan sighting, is finally showing signs of life. But the NLX is using tracks that are already there. I would hope, after 10 years of free-flowing cash, there's something ready to go by June. Even if it's Ken Buehler in a conductor's hat, singing "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Another great idea for a Hardy Boys adventure, by the way.

Brian actually looks forward to riding the train once it’s built because he wants to spend his 100th birthday at a Twins game.

Brian Matuszak

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at twitter.com/rchickentheater, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater and visit their website at RubberChickenTheater.com.

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