Northstar Corridor

From Academic Kids

The Northstar Corridor is a proposed commuter rail line that will serve a region which runs to the northwest from Minneapolis, Minnesota toward St. Cloud, Minnesota. The corridor is currently served by Interstate 94 and U.S. Highway 10, bringing travelers into the Twin Cities area around Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is the fastest-growing area in Minnesota one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States. The line, currently expected to be complete in 2008, would use existing track and right of way owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), which significantly reduces the cost when compared with building a new rail corridor. The current proposal only runs 40 miles from Minneapolis to Big Lake, Minnesota, although if the line becomes successful, plans are available to expand the route to the full 82 miles that would take it into St. Cloud.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and the Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) studied options for development of the corridor to handle the increasing commuter load, and felt that a commuter rail line was the best option. It is expected to cost about US$265 million in 2008 dollars, estimated to be approximately 1/3 the cost of upgrading existing highways. Because most of the rail that would be used is already in existence, the costs would mostly go into building new train stations, upgrading track, enhancing crossings, and adding railroad sidings so that commuter trains and freight trains (which currently run on the track) can pass by each other. A significant portion of the cost is to be used in extending the Hiwatha Line to just above the station proposed on the West side of I-394 and 5th Street.

Bus feeder lines would bring residents who live along the corridor to the nearest train station. Once in downtown Minneapolis, commuters would be able to walk upstairs to the Hiawatha Line light-rail corridor, or take a bus into neighboring St. Paul and other areas. Current plans would have eight trains run in the morning and evening rush hour periods, along with a few during the day and limited service on weekends and holidays. It is estimated that 5600 rides would be taken each day.

The route was initially designed to run the full distance between Minneapolis and St. Cloud, but the plan was not well-received by Minnesota politicians. Many have supported the idea of new passenger rail service in the state in the past few decades, but few plans have gotten off the ground. Governor Jesse Ventura was an early advocate of the Northstar commuter rail line, and convinced some people to come around to his point of view. However, current Governor Tim Pawlenty did not initially support the idea, and said he would not support it when he campaigned for the governorship. However, he changed his mind after the Federal Transit Administration determined that a scaled-back version of the line would cost less to initially build and would have lower maintenance costs after going into operation compared to other options.

Many hoped that funds would be approved for the project during Minnesota's 2004 legislative session, but the representatives at the capitol were unable to find common ground on a number of issues, the issuing of bonds among them. The project appeared stalled and many requested the governor to call a special session of the legislature, but some counties in the area and the Metropolitan Council came up with matching funds to allow funding from the United States federal government to continue.

During the 2005 legislative session a bonding bill passed that was very similar to the proposed 2004 bonding bill that included 37.5 million dollars of funding for the Corridor. The issue was believed to have changed the composition of the Minnesota House as the election in 2004 saw at least two non-supporters in direct vicinity of the Corridor ousted by opposition canidates. The bill, worth $866 million, was signed on April 11, 2005, by Governor Pawlenty at the Riverdale Station in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. This funding along with a total of 55 million dollars in local funding is matched with Federal funds and has allowed the NCDA to enter Final Design.

Related future projects

External links

References

  • (July 2005), "City Rail briefs", Trains Magazine, p. 29. (Details of the April 11, 2005, bonding bill)
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