A parking structure and pedestrian bridge over the tracks have apparently been part of the plan for the Northstar commuter rail station in Anoka for several years now. This would help consolidate the parking area at the station into a smaller space and open up land for development. While the idea had been stalled for some time, a looming grant expiration date led the city to scale down the proposal to something they felt they could afford.
The line opened in 2009, but the city had received a $5.85 million CMAQ grant four years earlier in 2005 to help pay for a parking ramp and ped bridge. That design apparently cost $12 million, and the city was never able to scrounge up the roughly $6 million in local funding needed for the project. If I understand correctly, the original proposal had 450 parking spaces in the ramp, while it looks like they are now moving forward with a smaller 350-stall parking structure—the cost has now shrunk to $9.4 million. (The existing two surface lots have 377 spaces total and are seeing an average use of about 220.) With the lower cost, it looks like they'll be able to get combine city funds with additional money from the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority as well as a significant contribution from the Counties Transit Improvement Board:
|City of Anoka||$957,000|
|Anoka County Regional Rail Authority||$575,000|
|Counties Transit Improvement Board||$2,000,000|
|Congestion Mitgation and Air Quality grant||$5,850,000|
The plan is to build the ramp on the southwest side of the tracks and open up the land on the northeast side for development. I guess I'd quibble with that idea a bit, since the historic center of Anoka is to the southwest—shouldn't new development be put as close to the old part of town as possible rather than having the parking there? Then again, that would probably mean that a couple hundred more cars would pass over the train tracks to get to the parking (I presume most traffic originates on the south side).
But wherever the parking goes, it's good that they're shrinking the area needed. Park-and-ride facilities should be used sparingly.
These recent activities should push the CMAQ grant expiration out to March 31, 2013.