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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Minnesota, BNSF reach financial agreement for Northstar commuter-rail line

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently announced the state reached a financial agreement with BNSF Railway Co. on trackage rights for the Northstar commuter-rail line.

BNSF agreed to make all necessary improvements to its tracks and facilities along the 40-mile Minneapolis-to-Big Lake, Minn., corridor that will be used by the commuter-rail service. The state will make a one-time payment of $107.5 million to BNSF to obtain rights to provide the service along the railroad’s right of way.

Northstar will provide five weekday morning trips from Big Lake to Minneapolis and one morning train from Minneapolis to Big Lake, and five weekday afternoon trips from Minneapolis to Big Lake with one afternoon train from Big Lake to Minneapolis. Northstar also will operate up to three round trip trains on weekends.

The line will include commuter-rail stations in Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids/Riverdale, Fridley and downtown Minneapolis.

The Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) has passed a resolution approving a memorandum of understanding for the project. Now, the Minnesota legislature must sign off on the remaining $60 million in state funds so NCDA can obtain Federal Transit Administration approval to begin final design. Construction could begin in 2007 with service beginning in 2009.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/10/2006