Washington County will receive more than $2.7 million from a special quarter-cent sales tax to help start two major transit projects, officials said.

In what's known as the Rush Line Corridor, the Washington County Regional Railroad Authority will buy a six-acre area in Hugo to preserve it for a future transit corridor of buses, trains or light rail, officials said.

The land is along an abandoned railway line in Hugo, about a half mile in length between 140th Street and 145th Street. It connects to land that the Washington County Regional Railroad Authority bought in 1994 from Burlington Northern Santa Fe. That earlier purchase stretches from 145th Street to the northern border of Washington County in Forest Lake.

The total cost of the additional land is $700,000, of which $630,000 will come from the transit sales tax in 2012, with the remainder coming from Washington County Regional Railroad Authority, county commissioners decided last week.

The Rush Line Corridor currently runs express buses between Forest Lake and St. Paul. That service began in October 2010 as an experiment, and it saw a 65 percent increase in ridership through last May.

The second project is a 90-mile transit corridor that eventually will run from St. Paul to Eau Claire, Wis. In 2012, a required environmental impact statement will be prepared at an estimated cost of $3 million, based on what such studies are costing the region, according to public works documents.

The county had requested a $2.125 million grant from the transit board and will now pay the remaining $875,000 as part of the requirements from the Gateway Corridor Joint Powers Agreement for that project along Interstate 94.

Last week, commissioners entered a 2012 agreement with the Counties Transit Improvement Board that will provide the grants out of $90 million in projected revenue for next year.


Commissioners OK money to continue juvenile services

Commissioners have approved another year of funding for comprehensive in-home therapy services for juvenile offenders who are considered at high risk for getting in trouble again.

The services focus on reducing the number of out-of-home placements of offenders and on preventing new offenses by those younger than 18.

Since 2010, at least 38 families have participated in the therapy, a research-based system that helped youths who were facing out-of-home placements for at least two months, said Tom Adkins, director of Washington County Community Corrections.

Eight of 10 youths involved in the therapy continued to live at home, attended school or were employed without being arrested for a new offense, Adkins said.

Reservations for shelters, campsites will begin Jan. 3

The Washington County Parks Department will begin accepting reservations for campsites and picnic shelters Jan. 3. Reservations will be accepted in person beginning at 9 a.m. at offices in the Lake Elmo Park Reserve and St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park. Telephone and online reservations will begin at 11 a.m.

The department will accept reservations for its modern and group campsites in the Lake Elmo Park Reserve and St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park, and for picnic shelters at Lake Elmo, St. Croix Bluffs, Big Marine Regional Park and the Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park.

Campsites are available from April 27 to Oct. 21. Picnic shelters can be used from May through October. The county also has a conference center available year-round at St. Croix Bluffs.

To book by phone call 651-430-8370. To make a reservation online go to www.bookyoursite.com.


Beware! Lake will have thin ice, open water all winter

City officials are urging people to beware of thin ice and areas of open water that will exist all winter on Battle Creek Lake in the northwest part of Woodbury.

An aeration system operated by the city will cause the ice to be thin no matter how cold it gets. The system circulates the water in the lake to oxygenate it, keeping the fish alive through the winter, according to parks and recreation officials.

The city is asking all residents around Battle Creek Lake, as well as recreational visitors, to note the location of the aeration system, on the north-central part of the lake, and stay clear of areas posted with orange-and-white reflective signs that warn: "Danger - Thin Ice."

The aeration system will be turned on next week, and will operate until the ice is gone.

Cottage grove

It'll cost $1 or a can of food to compost Christmas trees

Rumpca Companies, which runs the city's composting site, will accept Christmas trees on the weekends of Jan. 7-8 and 14-15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost of disposal is $1, or free if you bring at least one can of food to be donated to the local food shelf. The composting facility is at 95th Street and Glendenning Road.

Construction progress can be viewed via city's webcam

View the construction progress at the site of the new public safety and city hall building in real time via the city's webcam at oxblue.com/pro/open/CottageGrove.

City officials say that the camera allows you to see 10-minute updates or to go to back in time and see something you've missed.

On the screen's left side, pick the time of the day that interests you. Make the camera time lapse to view progression, or zoom and pan. There's even temperature data for each photo taken.

marine on st. croix

City will depend on hospital to transport patients

The city's volunteer emergency medical technicians and first responders will continue to provide medical treatment, but they won't transport patients to the hospital. That responsibility will now fall to Lakeview Hospital EMS.

The City Council earlier this month voted to terminate the Marine Ambulance Service because the ambulance squad didn't have enough volunteers. As a result, the team will no longer respond to calls in nearby Scandia. That city has its own EMT.

The Scandia City Council on Tuesday authorized Mayor Randall Simonson to sign a letter supporting North Memorial Ambulance Service coverage of all of Scandia.