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Rep. Knoblach Thinks NorthStar Can Work With Phantom Money

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 03/28/16 23:44

by Dave Mindeman

Rep. Jim Knoblach represents St. Cloud...and St. Cloud has been kind of shortchanged when it comes to the NorthStar rail line. By shortchanged I mean they don't have service. They have to drive or bus to Big Lake.

But Knoblach wants that line extended. However, he has an unusual way of doing it - phantom money.

Rep. Jim Knoblach, GOP chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, authored a bill that will be introduced Tuesday to require the state to negotiate with BNSF Railway to extend the commuter rail line to St. Cloud from its current end point in Big Lake. Knoblach's bill doesn't include any funding for an expansion, and prohibits the state from spending any more on operating costs than already budgeted. But he says he doesn't anticipate any additional cost to run the trains an additional 27 miles to the Amtrak station in St. Cloud.

Huh.

A 27 mile extension at no cost. Imagine how surprised everyone must be at how magical this all seems. Yes, the BNSF railroad has extended their tracks to St. Cloud....and yes, the Amtrak station is right there, operating. But I am skeptical that the BNSF railroad is going to just let the NorthStar line use its facilities and change its scheduling, and operate within the station for NO COST!

Yes, Rep. Knoblach's bill restricts things to "negotiations" right now and he doesn't even allow his bill to talk about any funding mechanism. But, really, this is too cute by half.

The transportation department isn't buying it. The response...

MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle and Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck released a joint statement responding to the Knoblach proposal: "It's not feasible to extend service, build additional track, serve more people, and have it cost the same as it does today. It is unlikely that BNSF railroad would allow the state to operate on its track at no additional cost. Any proposal to extend Northstar will take real funding solutions."

This situation was botched when the NorthStar came into being. We have years of pent up costs to deal with - even though BNSF has completed track now, Minnesota still has to decide how this will get laid out with BNSF scheduling and station stops - and this will still cost money to do.

Even if this particular bill passes, it really counts for very little.

All this seems to be is an election year ploy for Knoblach to try and keep the citizens of St. Cloud thinking that Knoblach is working on this.

Let's just cut to the chase....he isn't.
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