Northstar Commuter Rail Financial Planning

CASE STUDY: Anoka County Regional Rail Authority, Minnesota

The Goal

Anoka, Sherburne and Hennepin counties envisioned a rail system that would serve their burgeoning communities as traffic became more congested. But, like most transit projects, the future Northstar commuter rail line faced major financial hurdles along the way. For starters, the majority of the federal and state funding was only released after key early expenditures were made; the local partners had already paid over $10 million for preliminary engineering and $34 million in total for the project’s local share.

The Solution

The Regional Rail Authority selected Ehlers to provide financial planning and debt issuance services. Our municipal advisors collaborated with the counties and their project staffs to analyze several debt, budget impact and cost-benefit scenarios to determine an optimal debt funding, sales and repayment structure for the project. At the same time, the counties attracted support from state and local agencies with promises to provide future financial support. The outside support gave the counties future resources, but in the short term they needed to show a substantial financial commitment toward the project.

The Results

Ehlers and the counties determined that a debt issuance of $32.5 million would be appropriate. In addition to the long-term debt issuance Ehlers helped the counties secure $7.2 million in interim financing. Subsequently, Ehlers assisted the Regional Rail Authority with allocation and reconciliation of the balances of various funding sources.