Anoka approves ramp plans

Anoka City Council has approved plans for a $10.4 million parking ramp at the Anoka Rail Station.

The three-level ramp will have 333 parking spaces. Construction is expected to start on the south surface parking lot this spring. The Anoka Station Ramp will be located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Pierce Street to serve the city’s Northstar Commuter Rail passengers.

The ramp will be funded by a variety of sources, including a $5.85 million federal grant the city received back in 2005. Also contributing is the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority with $575,000, along with $2 million from the Counties Transportation Improvement Board. Both of those additional sources were sparked from Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look’s support of the project.

Anoka will fund more than $1.9 million of the construction costs, which will come from the city’s TIF revenues from the new Volunteers of America senior housing project.

Councilmember Jeff Weaver recalled a time when the city council was not on board with approving the parking ramp, which at one time was estimated to cost $12 million.

But with the help of Anoka County and CTIB, Weaver said the council has changed its tune.

“Not taking one penny out of the general fund is making it much easier to say yes,” said Weaver. “Whether you believe in the train or not, whether you like the train or not, I think we’re very fortunate the train stops in Anoka.”

Councilmember Carl Anderson agreed.

“There has been a lot of internal strife over this, but we’ve all got on board with this and it’s going to be a real asset to Anoka,” he said.

The ramp also includes a pedestrian overpass to improve safety and has been designed to accommodate future expansion.

The plans for the ramp were approved 3-0 on Tuesday night. Councilmember Steve Schmidt abstained from the vote, as he owns property near the rail station. Councilmember Mark Freeburg was absent.

Once the ramp is built on the south side of the station, it will allow for new development north of the tracks.

Anoka has a long term development plan for a mix of new residential, commercial and retail properties in the area surrounding the station.

City Manager Tim Cruikshank said the several agencies involved are still signing off on the agreements for the ramp. While it will be owned by the city, it will be operated and maintained by the Metropolitan Council, via Metro Transit.

He said the final detail being ironed out is to make sure there is enough surface parking available to the city once the retail area develops south of the ramp.

“I have every confidence we’re going to get there,” said Cruikshank. He also noted if for some reason the agreement was not finalized, the council could still put the brakes on the project before the April 15 award of the construction contract.

There had been concerns Anoka would lose riders once Ramsey opened its own Northstar station opened in November.

But not only has Anoka maintained its ridership, it has even seen some modest gains this winter, said Cruikshank.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]