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BNSF, NCDA and state of Minnesota sign Northstar operating agreements


The state of Minnesota, Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) and BNSF Railway Co. recently signed several agreements under which commuter-rail trains will operate along a 40-mile portion of BNSF tracks between downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake, Minn., when the Northstar Corridor opens in 2009.

As part of the pacts, the state will purchase permanent land easements from BNSF for $107.5 million, enabling Northstar trains to continue operating even if the Class I sells the track.

The agreements also include a joint-use pact between BNSF and the Metropolitan Council that outlines Northstar’s train schedule. Five trains will operate from Big Lake to Minneapolis each weekday morning with one reverse trip, and another five trains will run from Minneapolis to Big Lake each weekday evening with one reverse trip. On weekends, Northstar will operate three round-trip trains.

In addition, BNSF and NCDA signed a 10-year service agreement that identifies train operation terms for BNSF. When the agreement expires, Northstar can hire another vendor to operate trains.

The agreements mark the completion of NCDA’s negotiations with BNSF — one of the Federal Transit Administration’s final requirements for securing federal matching funds for the project. NCDA officials expect to obtain federal funding approval later this year, which would keep the project on track for a late 2009 opening.

Meanwhile, NCDA, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Council signed a delegation agreement under which the council will oversee Northstar commuter-rail operations. The council currently operates Hiawatha light-rail service, which will intersect with commuter-rail service in downtown Minneapolis.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/8/2007