Northstar Commuter Rail Project Secures Final Federal Funding Approvals

ANOKA, Minn. — A Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) commits $156.8 million in federal matching funds and immediately releases another $97.5 million in state bonding money for Northstar Commuter Rail construction and trains.

“Minnesota has reached a new milestone today with the signing of the Full Funding Grant Agreement for Northstar,” said Dan Erhart, Chair of the Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA). “Not only is this a day of celebration for those who have kept the project on track, but for Minnesotans who will soon be riding the trains, employers who will have their workers on board and communities along the corridor.”

The funding committed through the FFGA adds to the already significant financial contributions by the state of Minnesota, the regional rail authorities for Anoka, Hennepin, and Sherburne counties, the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Twins. It allows the project to award contracts in the coming months for passenger rail cars and construction of stations at Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids and downtown Minneapolis.

The 40-mile Northstar Commuter Rail Line will use existing BNSF Railway train tracks between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis. The agreement with BNSF secures the right for Northstar to use the tracks in perpetuity.

The line is expected to open in late 2009. Service will consist of five round trips each week day during rush hours, along with a reverse-commute trip each week day and three round trips each weekend day.

Trains will make the quick trip at speeds of up to 79 mph. Commuters will have a direct connection to Hiawatha Light Rail trains and other transit in downtown Minneapolis, adjacent to the new Twins’ ballpark.

“This Full Funding Grant Agreement would have been impossible without the commitment of U.S. Senators Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar, Congressmen James Oberstar, Jim Ramstad and Keith Ellison, and our entire Congressional delegation,” Erhart said. “With this agreement in place, it’s full speed ahead for Northstar. Let’s get ready to ride the line in 2009.”

Northstar Commuter Rail will provide service on the 40-mile segment of existing track along Highways 10 and 47 from Big Lake to Minneapolis. Northstar trains will offer commuter service during prime morning and evening week day rush hours, as well as regular weekend service and potentially some special event service.

The Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) is a joint powers board of 30 governmental entities representing counties, cities, townships and regional railroad authorities along the Northstar Corridor, which covers an 80-mile stretch from downtown Minneapolis to St. Cloud.

— PRNewswire