The Northstar Corridor Rail Project (Project) consisted of design and construction of a commuter rail line from Big Lake, Minnesota, to downtown Minneapolis on existing BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) right-of-way, and an extension of the existing Hiawatha Light Rail Transit (LRT) line from existing terminus at 1st Avenue North to an intermodal station with a transfer to the downtown Minneapolis commuter rail platform.
The Project is approximately 40.1-mile with five stations, which includes two stations off the BNSF mainline at each termini. All stations, except the downtown Minneapolis station, include park and ride spaces. The LRT extension is approximately four blocks, from the existing 1st Avenue North terminus of the Hiawatha LRT line to 4th Avenue North, with a tail track extending approximately two additional blocks.
Track, signal, and train control improvements on BNSF right-of-way were designed and constructed by BNSF. The facilities are maintained by BNSF, under a contract with Metro Transit.
Project scope also included: five locomotives, five bi-level cab cars and 12 bi-level passenger coaches; two light rail vehicles; a maintenance facility; the acquisition of real property, including the purchase of a perpetual easement from BNSF for commuter rail operations; fare collection equipment; and environmental mitigation.
The maintenance facility was built in Big Lake, Minnesota. The facility can accommodate inspections and light duty maintenance. Heavy maintenance services will be competitively procured by Metro Transit, the operator of the Project. Several railroads have heavy maintenance facilities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Feeder buses serve each station providing connections to residential and commercial areas. The Project operates five inbound and outbound weekday peak period commuter rail trips at approximately 30-minute frequencies and one reverse trip each weekday peak period. Three commuter rail round trips operate on weekend days and some holidays. The commuter rail terminus in downtown Minneapolis provides a direct connection between commuter rail and light rail (with the included extension of the existing Hiawatha LRT line).