ANOKA, Minn. – After completing 60 percent of the design of the Northstar Commuter Rail required by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) has found that updated capital cost estimates are consistent with preliminary cost estimates of $265 million, the group announced Nov. 29.
The latest numbers are the result of an in-depth engineering of all project elements today compared to when estimates were developed during preliminary design.
"We have always pursued a conservative and careful approach to ensure responsible financial management of this project," said Tim Yantos, executive director of the NCDA. "It’s gratifying to see that the latest analysis shows that the construction costs for Northstar are in line with our preliminary budgeting. And, we can be assured that there is a much higher degree of certainty in the costs because we’re farther along in the process."
The one change to the budget is due to new FTA requirements on projects entering into final design. In response to various cost pressures, the FTA recommended that the NCDA increase the contingency budget by $24 million as a safeguard, bringing the total project cost to approximately $289 million.
In the past, the FTA established their federal funding match at the end of final design when all costs were known. In July, the FTA notified the NCDA that its process changed. Now, their contribution is based on the budget that is determined before entering the final design phase. Building in a higher contingency now ensures that the State of Minnesota will receive the maximum federal contribution.
"We think these latest numbers are good news," added Yantos. "Allowing for additional contingency is smart planning and is in the best interest of the state and local funding partners. It will maximize the federal contribution."