Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rail in the News

Vandals hit Anoka train station
Monday, 20 July 2009
by Mandy Moran Froemming
Union Editor

Vandals have struck three different times to do $10,000 in damage at Anoka’s Commuter Rail Station.The station, located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Pierce Street, is nearing completion and will be one of several stops along the North Star Commuter Rail route. The train is expected to start offering the Big Lake to

Vandals have struck the Anoka Commuter Rail Station three times, causing $10,000 in damage. Photo by Mandy Moran Froemming
Minneapolis in November.Most of the damage at the Anoka station has come in the way of smashed windows at several of the station’s transit terminals.According to Capt. Scott Nolan of the Anoka Police Department vandals struck in three separate incidents on July 5, 13 and 14.The July 5 incident, which occurred during the night, was reported by a private citizen who noticed the damage, said Nolan. Vandals used a railway spike to break windows and a light fixture.Damages from July 13 and 14 were reported by the contractor building the station, Knutson Construction.On July 13, 11 windows were broken with a rock. On the night that followed, another window and door were smashed with a paving stone dug out of the ground, said Nolan.To date the police have made no arrests for the crime and anyone with information about the vandalism should call the Anoka Police Department at 763-576-2800Nolan did say police have increased patrols around the rail station since the vandalism was discovered.

Legislators push rail line from Willmar to Minneapolis
The promoters envision thousands of riders on a daily basis and popularity for commuters from Wright County.
BOB VON STERNBERG, Star Tribune s taff w riters
Last update: July 28, 2009 - 8:00 PM

Someday, passenger trains could carry commuters and travelers on a regular basis nearly 100 miles between Minneapolis and Willmar.
At least, that's the dream of several legislators who met Tuesday to kick-start their ambitious idea of creating passenger rail service between the two cities.
Known as the Little Crow Transit Way, the line is being touted as a way to reduce freeway congestion and help western and central Minnesota grow.
State Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, and state Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, hosted a public meeting Tuesday outside the old train depot near downtown Wayzata to promote the idea.
"I don't know where this will fit in the [state's] overall transportation plan, but it's a start," Bonoff said. "We're just into the initial lobbying phase."
Bonoff has repeatedly pushed to get state funding to study the rail line, which could use an existing freight line that parallels Interstate 394 and Hwy. 12.
Urdahl and Bonoff said they do not have precise cost estimates for the project, but they have been told by transportation experts that upgrading the rail system to handle high-speed trains would cost about $1 million a mile.
This year, Bonoff and Urdahl got the line included in the state's overall rail plan, which is being developed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Praveena Pidaparthi of MnDOT said the department will be looking at all of the proposed rail projects in the state and ranking them for legislators to consider. The report will be done by December.
Wayzata and beyond
As envisioned by its advocates, the 13-mile line between downtown Minneapolis and Wayzata would be a commuter line, similar to the Northstar line that will soon start running between Minneapolis and Big Lake.
Urdahl said he and others would eventually like to see that line connect with Sioux Falls to complement proposed high-speed service between St. Paul and Chicago.
"Essentially, you would be connecting Sioux Falls and Chicago," Urdahl said.
Supporters of the Willmar-Minneapolis rail project say it would get a boost if the Northstar line proves successful, which they believe it will.
The remaining 83 miles to Willmar would be served by conventional passenger trains, Bonoff and Urdahl said. Passengers from points west could transfer from those trains to the commuter line leading into the Twin Cities at Wayzata.
Urdahl expects "thousands of people" would ultimately use the service on a daily basis if it became available. He points out, for example, that about 40 percent of the residents of Wright County commute to the Twin Cities area to work each day.
"I think ridership will be explosive out there," Bonoff said.
Urdahl and others said the Little Crow line would not only ease freeway traffic but also could boost economic development in western Minnesota by attracting more businesses and residents to the area.
Various other legislators with stakes in the project said they are optimistic that it will get funded because of the recent push locally and nationally to increase rail service.
"The political situation for rail has changed tremendously in the past two years," said state Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, who chairs the House Transportation and Transit Policy committee.
Heron Marquez Estrada • Bob von Sternberg •

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