Transportation Notes

Northstar Corridor line awarded federal funds
As part of a $306.5 million transportation bill that the U.S. Senate passed on Sept. 12, the Northstar Corridor Rail Project will get $65 million toward the commuter rail line between Downtown and Big Lake, Minn.

Earlier in the month, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded a $1.9 million grant for the project, which will fund right of way acquisition and construction.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and James Simpson, the Federal Transit Administration administrator, asking them to recommend a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the corridor.

The $1.9 million grant comes on the heels of a $4.9 million grant from the DOT to finance final design activities for the rail line. The money will also help the state meet requirements for an FFGA, prepare bid packages, and cover additional administrative and project management costs.

"When finished, Northstar will ease traffic congestion in the north metro area, reduce consumption of oil and gasoline, and have a positive impact on our environment," said Coleman in a prepared statement. "Additionally, it represents one of the most readily available alternatives to ease the added congestion and delays that have been caused by the collapse of the 35W bridge."

The $320 million, 40-mile line will stop in Big Lake, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Elk River, Fridley and Downtown and connect with the Hiawatha LRT, which is getting a five-block extension.

Senate approves funding for Central Corridor line

The Senate has also promised $35 million for preliminary engineering activities on the Central Corridor LRT.

The advisory committee for the project is expecting a report this fall on improvements that the Washington Avenue bridge may need to carry the weight of the trains. According to an update from the Metropolitan Council, officials are primarily concerned with the structure’s ability to withstand "repetitive live loadings from the light rail vehicles." Secondly, the steel girders under the bridge aren’t up to code and may need to be rebuilt.

From downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul, the 11-mile line is expected to start running in 2014. Construction will begin in 2010 once all funding is secured and final plans are approved.

Reach Mary O’Regan at [email protected]