Expand Northstar rail line?

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Sponsored by Rep. Larry Haws (DFL-St. Cloud), HF2434 would provide $1 million in bonding “to match federal funds for environmental analysis, design, engineering, negotiations with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, and acquisition of real property or interests in real property to extend the Northstar commuter rail line from Big Lake to the St. Cloud area.” 


The line currently runs between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis. Service began in November, and about 2,200 people currently use the line.


The bill was one of 18 bonding requests heard by the House Transportation Finance and Policy Division. Members, who also heard 20 bills Tuesday, are to rank their preferences for a list that will be forwarded to the House Capital Investment Finance Division.


Sherburne County Commissioner Felix Schmiesing said the state money would bring in $3 million in federal funds. “We see it as half completed,” he said.


A brochure handed out by supporters states that minimal work would be needed to expand the line an additional 25 miles to St. Cloud, and that “Construction can be complete in 2011-12 if dollars are secured now.”


Other requests heard by the division, include:
• $11.7 million to construct Phase II of new terminal facilities at the Duluth airport (HF2495Huntley);
• $8 million for predesign of the Southern Rail Corridor in Dodge and Olmsted counties (HF2544Norton);
• $7 million for preliminary engineering for the Southwest Corridor light rail line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie (HF2554Simon);
• $4.3 million for a Northstar Commuter Rail station in Ramsey (HF2432Abeler);
• $2.8 million to construct a multipurpose airport hangar in Thief River Falls (HF2474Olin);
• $1.95 million to construct a park-and-ride in Woodbury (HF2423Bunn);
• $1.5 million for environmental analysis and project development of the Bottineau Boulevard Transit Way corridor from downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park or Maple Grove (HF2532Champion); and
• $1 million to complete final design and begin construction of a Northstar Commuter Rail station in Coon Rapids (HF2558Hortman).