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Wide White: More light rail transit coming

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More light rail transit coming

It's virtually a done deal. Minneapolis and St. Paul will be linked by light rail.
We have a route.

Not proposed, not envisioned, but planned — and supported by just about every public official with a say in it.

That's the bottom line after two votes Wednesday chose the route of the Central Corridor light-rail line linking downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis via University Avenue.

What we'll get is a $909.1 million, 11-mile, 20-station train running every 7 minutes, 30 seconds, 21 hours a day, seven days a week for a fare price that likely will be comparable to a bus ticket.
"This is a quantum leap forward," said Peter Bell, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, which will build the line beginning in 2010 and run trains starting in 2014.
So there are the warm fuzzies.

Here are the not-so-warm-fuzzies.
While many leaders called the votes historic, plenty of questions remain.

If the federal government signs off on the plan, the line will transform areas in its path, and no one has yet figured out exactly how. For example:

-- A six-block stretch of Washington Avenue through the University of Minnesota will be closed to cars — and possibly buses — to make way for the two-car trains. Streets surrounding the U's East Bank and West Bank campuses will be significantly altered to handle the traffic; no one yet knows how.

-- University Avenue will be ripped up and resurfaced to accommodate trains running down the middle. Bus schedules will be altered, with some service being eliminated, some scaled back and two north-south routes added. Of the 1,156 curbside parking spaces now serving the thoroughfare's businesses, many will be gone. No one knows how many or how to deal with it. No parking lots are planned.

-- Downtown St. Paul will see trains running along Cedar Street, with parking eliminated and southbound traffic reduced to one lane. The block bounded by Cedar, Minnesota, Fourth and Fifth streets will be diagonally bisected to accommodate the tracks and a station. Along Fourth Street, parking will be eliminated and traffic reduced to one lane — no one knows which way yet — as the train travels to Union Depot in Lowertown, where more roads and potentially buildings will be altered by tracks leading to a train maintenance yard near the Lafayette Bridge over the Mississippi River.

-- The previously rail-less region will have a virtual transit party at the new Minnesota Twins stadium in downtown Minneapolis. There, riders from the Hiawatha Line (serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America), the planned Northstar Line (serving Hennepin and Anoka counties and points northwest) and the Central Corridor will share a station.
Although it is not definite, Bell and others involved said it is unlikely cars would be able to use the Washington Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River, creating a traffic engineering imbroglio.

The plan adopted Wednesday calls for $39 million to deal with traffic snarls created by trains along the entire length of the line, and Bell said he fears, given the scenario at the U, the amount is "woefully inadequate."
Today is my last day riding the light rail from the Mall of America, as I'm moving this weekend and will be back on the bus. However, it's been a great resource to have. Is it worth raising our taxes over? I don't think so. But every metropolitan area in the country undergoing economic growth has a mass transit formula that goes beyond buses and the regularity and smoothness of the train has made it a very attractive option. It has also provided a great business route for those flying into the airport and heading downtown. Ridership on the Hiawatha Line has exceeded expectations by 65 percent.

Those who don't ride the light rail hate it, and understandably. But those of us who ride it or have ridden it can understand the appeal to expand it across the metro area. Let's just hope the funding to accomplish that has some sanity to it. I have my doubts...


Blogger -V- declared,

That's cool that it's exceeded expectations; didn't know much about it. My only thought was whether connecting the two cities would really be beneficial to anyone... does anyone go to St. Paul anymore? ;-)

2/28/2008 4:33 PM  
Blogger Keithslady declared,

Almost makes me wish I was a civil engineer because it would be so fun to work out all the plans and details (I know, I'm weird that way).

2/29/2008 8:01 AM  

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