This post has been updated with response from officials from the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton.
Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, will introduce legislation this week to extend the Northstar commuter rail to St. Cloud, according to a news release.
It currently runs from downtown Minneapolis to Big Lake; Knoblach's proposal would extend the line 27 miles west to include St. Cloud.
Knoblach's bill requires the state to contact BNSF Railway to begin negotiations and anticipates the use of the existing Amtrak station in St. Cloud. The proposal would reduce round trips from Big Lake to Minneapolis while adding the St. Cloud leg, so that total mileage would be similar to the status quo under his proposal.
“We already have the train engines, train cars, and a train station," Knoblach said. "The number of miles the train is operating over each week will be almost exactly the same, so I don’t expect there to be any additional costs to the state," he said in the release.
Knoblach faces a tough re-election battle in his St. Cloud district after winning by a slim margin in 2014, when many St. Cloud State students are believed to have stayed home after supporting Knoblach's opponent, Zach Dorholt, in 2012.
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.”