When evaluating the potential for commuter rail service on the Northstar Corridor, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MinnDOT) turned to LTK for expertise. The firm developed operational concepts and assisted with reviews and determinations of needed rail capacity improvements. LTK professionals provided maintenance facility layout and design while also working with MinnDot during a difficult site selection process.
The Northstar Corridor, which extends some 80 miles between downtown Minneapolis and the city of St. Cloud, Minnesota, is one of the fastest growing in the nation. It is served by interstate and state highways, and the transcontinental mainline of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.
During the preliminary engineering phase of this project, LTK developed and evaluated alternative operating plans and service concepts; analyzed alternative track configurations; evaluated the operating implications of alternative station locations; and provided conceptual signal layouts, together with the associated cost estimates. Rolling stock options appropriate to the operating concepts and consistent with demand forecasts were analyzed, with fleet requirements identified, and a passenger coach and locomotive design framework prepared. Alternative maintenance and operating facility sites were evaluated, and a maintenance facility design consistent with the rolling stock concept, including storage yard and access trackage, was prepared.
The initial phase of the Northstar Corridor, 40 miles in length, opened for service in November, 2009. With a cost of $317 million, the Corridor serves stations at Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Fridley, and Minneapolis.
LTK served as NCDA’s technical lead for procuring their fleet of 18 passenger coaches and five MP36PH-3C passenger locomotives from Motive Power, Inc. of Boise, ID. The MP36PH-3C has a 16-cylinder MPI 645F3B diesel engine as its prime mover. The MP36PH-3C has a separate Caterpillar diesel engine for HEP power generation. With this arrangement, the full rated prime mover power of 3,600 HP is available for traction, and the prime mover is allowed to idle at a lower RPM. Trains will operate at speeds up to 79 MPH.
The Northstar Line is operated by Metro Transit and provides an important link to a broader transit network in the metro area and central Minnesota. The initial level of service includes five peak period, peak direction trips and one reverse peak trip. On Saturdays and Sundays, three round trips operate. Ridership is estimated at 3,400 per day after one year of operation, increasing to 4,100 by 2030.