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CP Holiday Train rolls into the Twin Cities

In what has become a seasonal favorite, Canadian Pacific Railroad's Holiday Train has pulled into town, and this year with an expanded schedule.

After stops Friday in Cottage Grove and St. Paul's Union Depot, the train decked with thousands of colorful lights and performances by award-winning Canadian musican Colin James and Kelly Prescott will stop Saturday in New Hope, Golden Valley, St. Louis Park and northeast Minneapolis. At each stop, a stage folds down and the singers step out to perform a mix of traditional and modern holiday-themed songs during the 20-minute shows.

The free concert and light show is also a charity event, raising money, food and awareness for food banks and hunger issues. The train has raised more than $10.6 million for food shelves and collected 3.3 million pounds of food since 1999.

"Spending a couple weeks on a train and pulling into some of these idyllic towns will not only be a new experience for me but a fantastic way to ring in the Christmas season," James said.

This is the 18th year the train has rolled across Canada and the United States.

"We are proud of the role the Holiday Train plays, but more importantly, we're proud of the people and families that come out year after year to help their neighbors," said Hunter Harrison, CP's Chief Executive Officer.

Here is Saturday's schedule:

New Hope: 2:20 to 3 p.m., railroad crossing next to New Hope Ice Arena on 49th Avenue N.

Golden Valley: 3:35 to 4:10 p.m., railroad crossing on Golden Hills Drive.

St. Louis Park: 4:35 to 5:15 p.m., railroad crossing near St. Louis Park Emergency Program, 6812 W. Lake Street.

Northeast Minneapolis: 7 to 7:45 p.m., Lions Park on 37th Ave, between 37th Avenue and Stinson Blvd.

At long last, Hwy. 610 opens in Maple Grove

Photo: Dignitaries at an October ribbon-cutting celebrated the completion of Hwy. 610, but work on the highway was not complete until this week.

After a 40-year wait, drivers in the north metro finally have their own crosstown highway.

On Friday afternoon the Minnesota Department of Transportation opened the final portion of Hwy. 610 through Maple Grove, giving drivers a freeway all the way from the Hwys. 10/47 interchange in Coon Rapids to Interstate 94.

“We’ve waited 40 years for this road,” said Richard Boldt, who commutes from his home in Brooklyn Park to his job in Rogers. “It should speed things up.”

The new highway is expected to take pressure off the I-94 to I-694 artery, which runs parallel and carries about 115,000 vehicles a day.

It also goes some distance in easing the sentiment that the northern suburbs have been slighted when it comes to big transportation projects.

“We think this is a great day for Maple Grove and a big deal for the entire northwest metro,” said Maple Grove City Administrator Heidi Nelson. “It creates a whole new corridor to access the community and the interstate system. Today is really a victory for the traveling public.”

It might also be a big win for the city, opening the possibility for new development and economic opportunities. As the 12-mile highway was completed in spurts across Brooklyn Park in the 2000s, business followed. Several large corporations set up campuses along the now bustling corridor, including Target.

Maple Grove sees the same opportunity for development in the area west of the Maple Grove Hospital and between 101st and 105th Avenues, which will be more accessible now that the highway is open.

“We see interest in that area for office and medical development,” Nelson said, noting that the city is current updating its comprehensive plan to prepare for future growth.

Planning for the four-lane freeway nicknamed the “North Crosstown” began in 1973. MnDOT opened the first segment between Hwys. 10/47 and Hwy. 252 in 1986. Next came the section from Hwy. 252 to Hwy. 169 through Brooklyn Park. In 2011, the portion from Hwy. 169 to Elm Creek Blvd. opened.

Work on the final 2.5-mile stretch began in 2014 and included an interchange at Maple Grove Parkway and a bridge over Fernbrook Lane. A half-mile segment of 101st Avenue North between I-94 and Fernbrook Lane was moved, while 105th Avenue was extended west from Holly Lane across I-94 to a new intersection with 101st Avenue.

“It’s frustrating it took so long, but I am happy it is done,” said Boldt, the commuter.

Not so fast. At the west junction with I-94, only two of the four ramps are in place. Drivers will only be able to go from westbound 610 to westbound I-94, while eastbound 94 drivers will only be able to access eastbound 610. The $80 million Hwy. 610 project did not include enough money to build the other two movements, said MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard.

Nelson, the city administrator, said securing funding to build ramps from westbound Hwy. 610 to eastbound I-94 and from westbound I-94 to eastbound Hwy. 610 will be a priority for the city in the upcoming legislative session.

“Everybody is appreciative for what has been done,” she said. Without the ramps, Maple Grove Parkway, a city road many drivers have used to cut through Maple Grove to reach I-94 will continue to absorb extra traffic. “That’s why the completion of the project is necessary so Maple Grove Parkway can function as it was intended.”

Besides completing the I-94 and Hwy. 610 interchange, MnDOT has plans to extend Hwy. 610 further west to hook up with Hennepin County Road 30 in Corcoran.

For now, residents and city leaders are celebrating.

“It’s a good day in Maple Grove,” Nelson said Friday. “I’m going to drive it tonight.”


Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768