More passenger rail part of master plan

As Anoka focuses on growing the area around the Northstar Commuter Rail station, the city would like to add more options for passenger rail service.

At its Sept. 17 meeting, the Anoka City Council supported work being done by staff to pursue possible opportunities.

“Over the past several months as we have talked about the rail village on several occasions, there has been a discussion about the potential of adding an Amtrak station to our commuter rail station,” said Planning Director Carolyn Braun.

After doing a little digging, Braun also learned that MnDOT is working with Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railroad to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of adding a state-sponsored intercity passenger rail service in the Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Minneapolis-St. Cloud corridor.

“Currently the thinking is that it would run between Minneapolis and Duluth,” said Braun.

Anoka is asking for consideration to be included in this study.

“One of the issues with that is that if you go from Minneapolis to Duluth, to get to Anoka the train has to make a reverse movement,” said Braun.

According to Braun, the city is also asking to be considered as a conditional stop for Amtrak’s passenger rail service. While it would not be a full-fledged Amtrak station, passengers traveling to or from destinations beyond the two nearest stops in St. Paul and St. Cloud, could get on or off the Amtrak train in Anoka.

Anoka resident and retired railroad worker Ed Burns strongly supports Anoka being added to the Amtrak service.

“Traditionally inter city passenger service has suburban stops,” said Burns, who had 38 years on the job with Burlington-Northern Santa Fe and its predecessors.

“On the (Amtrak) Empire Builder there is a Glenview, Ill., (stop) which is 14 or 15 miles from Chicago,” he said.

“I think its a great stop. I think its a great idea. The last westbound intercity train to stop in Anoka was 1960. The last eastbound intercity train was 1967.”

Development around the station

Plans are in the works to start construction on a parking ramp next year that will accommodate more than 300 vehicles on the south side of the rail station, leading the way for what the city hopes will be redevelopment of the entire area.

Within the next couple of months the council will be voting on a master development plan for the Anoka Transit Village.

Councilmembers saw an early look at the plan at a Sept. 24 work session, which lays out general goals for both residential and commercial development in the area that surrounds the Northstar Station.

While not a specific map for the development, it will be used as a tool to help market the area to developers, said Bryan Harjes, a landscape architect with Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc.

“What the plan looks to do is guide development patterns in this area,” said Harjes.

HKG was hired as a consultant to work with city staff to put together the master plan for what is now being called the Anoka Transit Village.

In addition to commercial, retail and residential development, the plan also address the future transportation needs of the area.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]