This weekend, the Minnesota Legislature overwhelmingly approved $60 million in bonding authority requested by Governor Pawlenty for construction of the states first commuter rail line. Governor Pawlenty is expected to sign the bill into law soon, which will allow the state to seek federal matching funding for construction of the Northstar project.
The future for commuters looks very bright! Theyll finally have a transportation alternative that allows them to travel more quickly and efficiently, said Rep. Kathy Tingelstad (R-Andover), chief author of the Northstar legislation in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The action of the legislature sends a clear signal that Minnesotans are strongly behind Northstar Commuter Rail. Were optimistic that the federal government will now complete the funding package needed for Northstar.
The total construction cost of Northstar is estimated to be $307.3 million, with local governments along the line contributing 17 percent. The states portion approximately 33 percent was partially funded in 2005 with $37.5 million in bonding authority. This years $60 million in bonding completes the states share. The Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) will now complete its application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for a 50 percent federal funding match. The FTA recently provided encouragement for the project to proceed with final design and is expected to lock in its funding by this fall.
Delivering this project to the residents of the Northstar Corridor required years of hard work and a lot of patience, said Sen. Don Betzold (DFL-Fridley), chief author of the Senates Northstar legislation. But in that time, support has continued to grow among community leaders and residents the future users of Northstar Commuter Rail.
On May 8, the NCDA, the state of Minnesota and BNSF Railway whose tracks the Northstar project will utilize reached an agreement in principle that outlines the key financial terms for Northstar construction and operation. According to the agreement in principle, the Northstar project is planned to provide six round trips per weekday, during the morning and evening commute times, and three round trips on weekends. The project will run on existing train tracks between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis, where Northstar will link to the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. More than 3 million rides per year is the projected capacity for this commuter rail line.
Legislators and Governor Pawlenty made history this week by committing the state to its first-ever commuter rail line and we want to thank them, said NCDA Chair Duane Grandy. Northstar is now on track to begin carrying passengers in 2009.