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Northstar commuter-rail project needs a shorter segment to meet FTA cost-effectiveness requirements, preliminary report says

The Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) recently released preliminary data showing the proposed Northstar Commuter Rail project could meet the standards for a new cost-effectiveness analysis required by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

But FTA could require that the proposed 82-mile project between Minneapolis and St. Cloud/Rice be reduced to a 40-mile segment between Minneapolis and Big Lake.

Completed by AECOM Consult Inc., the report shows a shorter segment likely would meet FTA’s cost-effectiveness index, which compares annual construction and operation costs with the estimated hours of commuting time passengers would save annually.

If NCDA eliminates the proposed Foley Boulevard and Northeast Minneapolis stations, the Big Lake-to-Minneapolis portion of the project would meet FTA’s standards. The extension to St. Cloud did not meet the cost-effectiveness standard, according to the analysis.

FTA recently created more strict requirements to determine user benefit ratios. With the new FTA criteria — and proposal to shorten the line and reduce stations — NCDA officials estimate 5,600 passengers would ride the system daily.

Now, NCDA must submit additional data and respond to questions from FTA. NCDA also is negotiating with Burlington Northern Santa Fe to refine costs associated with operating the commuter-rail line on the Class I’s existing line.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/7/2004