Construction begins on Northstar park-and-ride in St. Cloud

Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for a park-and-ride station to bus passengers from St. Cloud to the Northstar commuter rail line.

Northstar will link Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis when it opens in November. Dan Erhart, who chairs the Northstar Corridor Development Authority, says commuter bus service from St. Cloud will be an important part of studying the potential ridership on the entire system.

"When we do these studies to determine the ridership potential, we need to know how accurate those studies are," he said. "And the only way you can determine and ascertain accuracy of those is to actually go into operation and see how close the actual numbers come to the numbers that were forecast in the studies."

Erhart said Northstar ridership may exceed initial capacity. He says officials planned for that possibility.

"We bought locomotives that are big enough. They can pull up to 10-car trains. We can expand the station sites. We can make them longer so that we can put more cars on there. Right now we are looking at three- and four-car trains."

Northstar officials hope to gain federal approval to extend the line to St. Cloud. The park-and-ride is being built near Highway 10, on the site of a proposed future rail station.

When the St. Cloud bus service begins this fall, the introductory fare will be one dollar for the first year.

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