When evaluating service on the Northstar Corridor, the Minnesota Department of Transportation turned to LTK Engineering Services for expertise. The firm developed operational concepts and assisted with reviews and determinations of rail capacity improvement. Staff members provided maintenance facility layout and design while also working with MinnDot during a difficult site selection process. LTK served as a facilitator for a variety of other potential challenges.
The Northstar Corridor, which extends some 80 miles between downtown Minneapolis and the city of St. Cloud, Minnesota, is one of the fastest growing in the nation. It is served by interstate and state highways, and the transcontinental mainline of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The objective of the Northstar Corridor project is to define an appropriate commuter rail service to link the two terminal cities and intermediate communities.
Working in the preliminary engineering phase of this project from 1999 to 2001, LTK developed and evaluated alternative operating plans and service concepts; analyzed alternative track configurations; evaluated the operating implications of alternative station locations; and provided conceptual signal layouts, together with the associated cost estimates. Rolling stock options appropriate to the operating concepts and consistent with demand forecasts were analyzed, with fleet requirements identified, and a conceptual car and locomotive design framework prepared. Alternative maintenance and operating facility sites were evaluated, and a maintenance facility design consistent with the rolling stock concept, including storage yard and access trackage, was prepared. The firm also evaluated and recommended appropriate car and locomotive technology for this service.
Infrastructure cost estimates provided by LTK included components, labor, materials, engineering services, as well as overhead and expenses. These estimates focused on the extensive improvements to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe infrastructure required to accommodate fast and reliable commuter rail frequencies on a busy freight mainline, as well as on the signaling and track requirements unique to the commuter rail operation itself. The improvements addressed were interlockings, automatic signal locations, passing sidings and grade crossing protection. Cost estimates for the fleet of cars and locomotives required to operate the service, and the maintenance facility and yard, also were prepared.