Lawmaker Wants Study To Expand Northstar

Lawmaker Wants Study To Expand Northstar Click to Enlarge Photo: Metro Transit

(KNSI) - A local lawmaker wants to see a study on bringing the Northstar Commuter Rail line to Camp Ripley.

Representative Tim O’Driscoll is sponsoring legislation to see if it makes economic sense to extend the route from Big Lake to St. Cloud and then onto Camp Ripley.

O'Driscoll wants to get the figures first.

"Instead of it becoming a political decision to just drop a train station somewhere along that corridor and find out after we spent millions of dollars, it's in the wrong spot."

O’Driscoll says in case of a natural disaster, having a Northstar stop at Camp Ripley could be beneficial as it could evacuate a large number of people from the Metro Area quickly and take them to the medical facility that exists at the site.

In addition to natural disasters, Camp Ripley is a versatile resource for many state needs including the U.S. Army National Guard.

O’Driscoll stated that perhaps defense or homeland security money could be used for the project if the line went to the military training facility.

The Republican says he doesn’t necessarily support spending money to bring Northstar to Camp Ripley but wants to have the conversation.

"With the compromising infrastructure that we got, with just time catching up to it, I think you’re going to find roads and bridges are where the priorities need to be."

The Minnesota House Transportation Finance and Policy Division will hold a committee hearing in St. Cloud on Friday, February 22 and O'Driscoll is hopeful his bill will be heard.

A number of state representatives whose districts reside along the Northstar line have agreed to co-author O’Driscoll’s proposal.

They include Lisa Demuth of Cold Spring, Shane Mekeland of Clear Lake, Ron Kresha of Little Falls, Tama Theis of St. Cloud, and Josh Heintzeman of Nisswa.

Senator Jeff Howe, of Rockville, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.