WASHINGTON — Another piece of the federal funding puzzle for the Northstar commuter line has fallen into place, officials said.
Congressman Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., announced a $5.6 million grant has been awarded to the Northstar Corridor Rail Project. The funding will help secure an easement from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to permit the commuter trains to travel on their tracks between Minneapolis and Big Lake.
“We are one step closer to making commuter rail service a reality in Minnesota,” Oberstar said. “This will ease traffic congestion on I-94 and Highway 10. Commuter rail, bus transit, and even bike paths are all part of the solution to the problem of congestion. We can take cars off the highways and make traffic move more efficiently.”
The Department of Transportation is in the final stages of reviewing the Northstar Commuter Rail Project’s request for matching federal funds. If the request is approved the federal government will contribute another $160 million to the project.
A final decision on that grant request will be made this fall.
“The project has cleared most of the preliminary hurdles. I am optimistic that the grant will be approved,” said Oberstar.
When it is completed the commuter trains will be able to move as many as six thousand people a day during the morning rush hour commute. The trains will travel at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour making the 41 mile commute to from Big Lake to Minneapolis in just 40 minutes.
The Northstar line is expected to begin operation in late 2009.