When the Red Rock commuter train begins rolling between Hastings and the Twin Cities by the end of the decade, a surge in economic development will be going along for the ride.
At four planned stops -- Hastings, Cottage Grove, Newport and in southeastern St. Paul near Battle Creek Park -- train stations are expected to spawn a host of retail and residential projects, Washington County Board members were told Tuesday.
Ted Schoenecker, a transportation planning engineer with the county, said the station planning study is about halfway complete, and should be done by next summer.
It's projected that trains will start rolling by about 2018. The 30-mile corridor generally follows Hwy. 61 to downtown St. Paul, then goes on to Minneapolis by a route not yet finalized. Tom Dobbs of Hay Dobbs PA, a Minneapolis architectural and urban design company, said planning for the stations is still at the sketching-out phase. But entire neighborhoods are expected to sprout around the stations. Here is how Dobbs described the emerging plans:
Hastings: The station would be at the old Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Depot in the city's historic downtown, near an existing park-and-ride lot. "We think that's a special place and something that needs to be built upon," Dobbs said. A large parking ramp would be designed to blend with the charming architecture of the historic district, he said, and would help revitalize the riverfront. Being at the end of the line, the station would draw commuters from Red Wing, Lake City and Cannon Falls, along with fast-growing communities in eastern Dakota County.
Cottage Grove: Two sites are being looked at: Hamlet Park, on the west side of Hwy. 61 between 80th Street and Jamaica Avenue, and Langdon Village, also on the west side of Hwy. 61 and south of Jamaica.
The Hamlet Park site already has a park-and-ride site where express buses carry commuters to the Twin Cities, but "from a retail standpoint, it's not a great site." It still has potential for other development. The Langdon site is more open, and the city owns much of the land, Dobbs said.
Newport: Washington County acquired the land for this site at the former Knox Lumber store earlier this year. Construction of a transit station is expected to start in 2012 to accommodate express buses, then the train. Commissioner Myra Peterson, who sits on the Red Rock Corridor Commission, said development around the train station "could become the main face of Newport."
St. Paul: A station would likely be built on the southeast corner of the intersection of Lower Afton Road and Hwy. 61 near an existing park-and-ride lot. Dobbs said surrounding development would connect with the Battle Creek Regional Park's trails system. Jim Anderson • 651-735-0999