ST. CLOUD -- The transportation budget bill is headed to the full Minnesota House and Senate for a vote, and it includes funding for extending the Northstar Commuter Rail to St. Cloud.

Democratic State Representative Dan Wolgamott of St. Cloud says the bill includes $650,000 for Northstar. He says that money will allow the Minnesota Department of Transportation to begin working on estimated project costs, and start negotiations with Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad. However, it is not enough money to actually get the trains to St. Cloud.

It's going to take a lot of steps because this is a big project and it's important that we do it right.  It's time that we finish Northstar and do it correctly.

The original bill introduced back in February called for over $7.3 million in state money.

Wolgamott says this is the first money dedicated to the extension of Northstar to St. Cloud in 10 years, thanks to the efforts of a lot of local people.

This is something that has been years in the making, really entirely because of grassroots activism from people in St. Cloud.

Wolgamott says it was a bi-partisan effort of local lawmakers with Republican State Representative Tama Theis of St. Cloud and Republican State Senator Jerry Relph of St. Cloud also authoring the Northstar bill.

He says once the transportation budget bill gets signed by Governor Tim Walz he plans to work closely with MnDOT officials making sure the project keeps moving forward.

Meanwhile, another bill that would have studied the feasibility of extending Northstar all the way to Camp Ripley did not get a hearing during the regular legislative session.

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