Northstar Corridor - Construction and Operation

Construction and Operation

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and the Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) studied options for development of the corridor to handle the increasing commuter load, and felt that a commuter rail line was the best option. It was expected to cost about US$265 million in 2008 dollars, estimated to be less than one-third the cost of upgrading existing highways, though the cost would later climb to $317 million. Because most of the rail that is being used already exists, the costs mostly went into building new train stations, upgrading track, enhancing crossings, and updating signals. A significant portion of the cost was used in extending the Hiawatha Line to the Target Field station on the west side of Interstate 394 and 5th Street. This terminal station is integrated into the Minnesota Twins' new ballpark, Target Field, which opened in March 2010.

Bus feeder lines, including the Northstar Link from St. Cloud to Big Lake station (a temporary option until the line is extended), bring residents who live along the corridor to the nearest train station. Once in downtown Minneapolis, commuters can walk upstairs to the Hiawatha Line light rail, take a bus into neighboring St. Paul and other areas, or go into one of the nearby buildings integrated into the Minneapolis skyway system. The line currently has six trains run in the morning and evening rush hour periods, and limited service on weekends and holidays. Metro Transit has a ridership goal of 3,400 rides daily in 2010, with daily ridership of 5,900 by 2030, saving those commuters 900,000 hours over the course of a year when compared to taking a dedicated bus line.

Ridership in the first 15 days averaged 2,207 per day (33,112 total), short of a goal of 2,460. By the end of January 2010, goals were exceeded by 3%, Ridership for 2010 was originally projected to be 897,000. With only a couple weeks left in 2010, officials have announced that 2010 ridership will be about 20% less than that, 715,000. Because ridership varies significantly through the course of a year, Metro Transit's month-to-month goals are different than the yearly average goal.

Read more about this topic:  Northstar Corridor

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