Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Minnesota's Northstar commuter rail to begin service Nov. 16

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Northstar, the state's first commuter rail service, will offer five morning trips from Big Lake, Minn., to downtown Minneapolis and five return trips in the afternoon along a 40-mile corridor, with stops at Fridley, Coon Rapids, Anoka, Elk River and Big Lake. One reverse commute roundtrip also will be offered on weekdays, and three weekend roundtrips are planned on Saturdays and Sundays.

Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell announced the launch date during a news conference today at Downtown Minneapolis Ballpark Station, where he introduced the marketing theme for the new service: "Meet Minnesota's New Star."

Bell was joined by Dan Erhart, chair of the Northstar Corridor Development Authority; Peter McLaughlin, chair of the Counties Transit Improvement Board; Khani Sahebjam, MnDOT's deputy commissioner and chief engineer, and Brian Lamb general manager of Metro Transit.

The $317-million project was designed and constructed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. It is owned by the Met Council and managed by Metro Transit, an operating division of the Council.

To mark the launch of commuter rail service, communities will host local celebrations on Saturday, Nov. 14, at rail stations in Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley. A single five-car train will serve each station that day, giving citizens a free ride to Minneapolis to experience the Northstar Line before revenue operations begin two days later. Train tickets for these grand opening events will be distributed in a lottery system. Details will be released soon.

The exact train schedule is still being set with test trains operating in the corridor now. Trains will arrive in downtown Minneapolis in time for commuters to reach their offices for work shifts that begin at 6:30 a.m., 7 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.  Afternoon trips are expected to operate at half-hour intervals beginning at about 3:45 p.m.

Each suburban station has adjacent park-and-ride facilities, and platforms are equipped with cameras, emergency telephones, enclosed shelters, heating and other amenities. Connecting bus service will be available at four suburban stations, including Northstar Link coach buses, which will bring commuters from St. Cloud to Big Lake for their Northstar trips to Minneapolis.

When Northstar trains arrive in downtown Minneapolis, customers will be able to make quick connections to the Hiawatha light-rail line, which has been extended north to the new Ballpark Station adjacent to the Twins' Target Field. Access to regional bus routes and to the Minneapolis skyway system is a short walk away.

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