The Northstar Corridor Development Authority, Sherburne County and Stearns County officially marked the start of construction Aug. 26 with a groundbreaking ceremony on the Northstar Link Commuter Coach park and ride lot. The lot will be located at Highway 10 and Lincoln Ave in St. Cloud.
When complete, the Northstar Link lot will have 146 parking spaces and a drive through lane for commuter coaches. Bus service is planned to begin when Northstar Commuter Rail service is launched later this year.
St. Cloud area commuters will be able to board the bus and ride in comfort to the Northstar Commuter Rail station in Big Lake. At Big Lake, commuters will transfer to the train. Proposed fares to catch the Northstar Link are $3 cash with discounts for passes. A train ticket from Big Lake to Minneapolis will be $7 this fall. The Northstar Link service will meet every train in Big Lake in the mornings and afternoons, Monday through Friday.
Final schedules for both services have not been released, but commuters can expect to arrive downtown Minneapolis for work start times Monday through Friday at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 and 8:45 a.m. Coaches also will offer rides to St. Cloud from Big Lake. In the afternoons, trains are expected to serve work end times in downtown of 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, 5:00 and 5:30 p.m.
Commuter coach service is just the beginning, according to Sherburne County Commissioner Felix Schmiesing, chair of the Extension Committee for the Northstar Corridor Development Authority.
“Coaches today. Trains tomorrow. That’s our vision for what we want to see in the St. Cloud area,” Commissioner Schmiesing said. “With the continuing support of area elected officials, business people and residents, we’ll make it happen.”
Train service to the St. Cloud area was the original plan for Northstar, according to Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart, chair of the Northstar Corridor Development Authority.
“Northstar Commuter Rail was envisioned to go all the way from Minneapolis to the St. Cloud area when 30 governmental units along the line started meeting more than a dozen years ago,” Commissioner Erhart said. “Eligibility requirements for federal funding caused us to break the project into two parts, but we remain committed to completing what we started.”
Officials intend for the Northstar Link Commuter Coach service to demonstrate the demand for transit services, which will help make their case for federal funding.
St. Cloud Metro Bus is the administrator of the program. In the first full year of operations, they expect to give 26,000 rides.
The park and ride lot construction cost of approximately $565,000 will be paid for with state bonding money, plus contributions from the Northstar Corridor Development Authority, Sherburne County and Stearns County. Three, high quality, used coaches have been purchased at a cost savings of between $300,000 and $1.2 million.
A marketing plan with radio, print and billboards is underway to inform the public about the new service. More information is available at CatchTheLink.com.
About the Northstar Commuter Rail Project
Northstar Commuter Rail will provide service starting in late 2009 on the 40-mile segment of existing track along Highways 10 and 47 from Big Lake to Minneapolis. Northstar trains will offer commuter service during prime morning and evening week day rush hours, as well as regular weekend service and some special event service.
The Northstar Corridor Development Authority is a joint powers board of 30 governmental entities representing counties, cities, townships and regional railroad authorities along the Northstar Corridor, which covers an 80-mile stretch from downtown Minneapolis to St. Cloud.
Ground was broken for the new Northstar Link park and ride Aug. 26 by city, county and state officials. Pictured are Sherburne County Commissioner John Riebel, Senator Tarryl Clark, St. Cloud Councilwoman Sonja Hayden-Berg, Sherburne County Commissioner Ewald Petersen, Stearns County Commissioner DeWayne Mareck, Sherburne County Commissioner Felix Schmiesing, Sherburne County Commissioner Larry Farber, St. Cloud Councilwoman Carolyn Garven, Big Lake Councilman Chuck Heitz, Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart, Representative Dan Severson, and Senator Lisa Fobbe.