All Aboard! North Star Line from Minneapolis to Big Lake

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I’m sure most of you have heard of the new and coming NorthStar Commuter Train which is also known as the light rail.. The rail is supposed to run from Minneapolis all the way up to Big Lake, which will be it’s northern-most stop of the 40 mile NorthStar line. It is expected to start commuting passengers in late 2009.

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Light Rail will not only be stopping in Big Lake, but it will also be home to the future NorthStar Maintenance Building. Along with the 60,000 square foot building there will be a 520 stall parking lot. With the construction of the Maintenance Building, parking lot, and the rail itself, it will create chances for employment. Crews will need to be hired for construction and employees will be needed for the newly-finished building. A few highly-experienced people have been hired already, but an assistant superintendent and train crews will need to be hired. Plus another 23-26 full time employees to run the maintenance building. Conductors for the trains are also going to need to be hired and trained.

Along with a big project comes a big expenses. The proposed operating expenses for 2009 are expected to be $9.19 million. $4.52m coming from the state; $3.79m coming from Metro Transit counties; $727,927 coming from Sherburn County and $151,387 from farebox revenue. In the first full year of the light rail’s operation, the expenses are expected to increase to about 17.4 million. If you would like to hop on the train and catch a one-way ride to Minneapolis here are what your fares are going to be: from Big Lake to Minneapolis $7.50, from Elk River $5.50, $4 from Anoka, and $3.25 from Coon Rapids. Another goal of Light Rails is to bring people from the metro area to the Big Lake and surrounding areas for potential shopping/recreational day trips. For example: Fishing and swimming in the two lakes, walking and running around the lakes, dining out, etc. By a boom of “tourists” it could potentially generate a hike in home sales–which would make the community bigger and possibly make Big Lake the next Star City.

After all is said and done, jobs will be created and some of the unemployed will be given the chance to have a steady income. The NorthStar Commuter Train will hopefully help out the falling economy by giving the smaller cities some good exposure. Of course nothing is ever perfect and there will be some kinks to work out, but communities have been waiting for this for a few years now. It is finally coming together and will be up and running before we know it.

_A student at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Jamie Groth lives in Big Lake_

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