On Thursday, June 1, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the 2006 bonding bill, which includes $60 million in bonding authority for the states first commuter rail line. A large crowd of elected officials and Northstar Commuter Rail supporters attended the event at the site of the future Northstar Elk River station.
"Today is the culmination of years of hard work and commitment from thousands of individuals who have united to bring commuter rail to Minnesota," said Duane Grandy, chair of the Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA). "Together, we look forward to completing this important link in the states transportation system and begin riding the rails in 2009."
The signing of the 2006 bonding bill fulfills the states commitment needed to seek federal matching funds for Northstars construction. The state will pay for approximately 33 percent of Northstars $307.3 million total construction cost. In 2005, legislators approved the states first installment $37.5 million in bonding authority. Local governments along the line are paying for 17 percent and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is expected to provide a 50 percent federal funding match. The NCDA is hopeful that the FTA will approve its funding commitment later this year.
"When the Governor signed the bill that ensures state funding for Northstar Commuter Rail, he triggered the beginning of a new phase in the projects development," said Tim Yantos, NCDA executive director. "Over the next few years, well finalize the detailed agreements with BNSF Railway for use of its train tracks, make the needed track and signal improvements and build the Northstar stations. Minnesotans will begin to notice visible evidence that Northstar is on its way."
According to an agreement in principle reached by the state, the NCDA and BNSF, the Northstar project is planned to provide five trips to Minneapolis and one reverse trip during weekday mornings, five trips to Big Lake and one reverse trip during weekday evenings and three round trips on weekends. Its expected to provide more than 3 million rides per year.