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Commuter Rail Activities in Minnesota
Updated August 2006
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Northstar Commuter Rail



  • August 2006:  FTA approves entry into Final Design
  • August 2006:  5th Street Utility Relocation begins
  • July 2006:  FTA issued Letter of No Prejudice enabling utility relocation
  • May 2006:  Northstar submitted final application to FTA for approval to enter Final Design
  • May 2006:  Minnesota Legislature committed final $60 million in bonding
  • May 2006: Memorandum of Understanding with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) signed by Commissioner of Transportation, Carol Molnau
  • March 2006: Federal Transit Administration makes known their intention to recommend Northstar to enter into final design
  • March 2006: Northstar Corridor Rail Project receives the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and the Negative Declaration Regarding the Need for an Environmental Impact Statement
  • December 2005: Environmental Assessment Draft 4(f) Evaluation is published
  • April 2005:  Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law the $866 million bonding bill, which included $37.5 million in funding for Northstar
  • August 2004: Northstar Corridor Development Authority committed $10 million for advanced design. Met Council committed $2.5 million to match $10 million in federal funds for property acquisition and other tasks.
  • December 2002: FTA issued Federal Environmental Record of Decision and State Adequacy Determination
  • March 2002: Final Environmental Impact Statement published
  • June 2001: Preliminary Engineering submitted to FTA
  • January 2001: Supplemental Information to the DEIS published
  • October 2000:  Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) published
  • June 2000:  FTA approved entry into Preliminary Engineering
  • March 2000:  Preliminary Engineering submitted to FTA

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Northstar Corridor Rail Project Summary

DATA: The proposed Northstar Corridor Rail Project will provide commuter rail service along a 40-mile corridor from downtown Minneapolis to Big Lake, Minnesota parallel to Trunk Highways 47 and 10. It will use existing railroad tracks owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) and include six stations: Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Fridley and Minneapolis. The rail line will have inter-modal connections to bus transit and to the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. The Northstar connection to LRT consists of a four-block extension on the northwest end of the Hiawatha LRT to reach the downtown Minneapolis commuter rail station. With the exception of the downtown Minneapolis station, all of the stations will have park and ride facilities.

  • Early 2007: FTA enters into Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA)
  • Spring 2007: Construction beings
  • 2009: Service opens

HISTORY: At the request of the 1997 Minnesota Legislature, Mn/DOT initiated the Twin Cities Metropolitan Commuter Rail Feasibility Study. In January 1998, Phase I of the study identified the Northstar Corridor as one of the six corridors with potential for success. In January 1999, Phase II recommended the Northstar Corridor as the priority corridor. In the Commuter Rail System Plan, completed in January 2000, the Northstar Corridor was identified as the Stage 1 Corridor in Tier 1 staging.

ESTIMATED PROJECT CAPITAL COSTS: $307 million in year of expenditure. Funding sources for the capital costs are proposed to be 50% Federal, 33% State, and 17% Local (county).

ESTIMATED PROJECT OPERATING COSTS: Annual Northstar operating and maintenance costs are estimated to be $9.3 million per year in 2006 dollars. This would be covered through fare box revenues, FTA Section 5307 Preventative Maintenance grants, and operating subsidies. The operating subsidies are proposed to be split between state and local sources.

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  • Length: 40 miles
  • Number of Stations: 6
  • Est. Daily Ridership: 5,600 trips
  • Daily Capacity: 10,000 riders
  • Service Begins: 2009 - With Your Help!
  • Estimated cost per ride: $4-$6
  • Capital Cost: $307.3 million (FY 2008) (50% federal, 33% state, 17% local)
  • Car Capacity: 150-162 seated (additional space for standing available)
  • Amenities: Work tables, on-board restrooms, individual seating, power outlets.
  • Top Speed: 79 mph
  • Base Service: 5 trips to Minneapolis, 1 reverse trip weekday afternoons/mornings; 5 trips to Big Lake, 1 reverse trip weekday evenings; 3 round trips per weekend day; limited special event service
  • Connections: Feeder buses to stations, Hiawatha LRT in downtown Mpls.
  • Accessibility: Fully ADA Compliant

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