From Hilary Reeves, Communications Director
The proposed downtown Minneapolis multimodal transportation hub adjacent to Target Field—a.k.a. The Interchange—got a financing boost this past week with the announcement of $10 million in federal support through a TIGER grant from the US DOT. The goal is for the new facility to open when the Central Corridor Light Rail service begins in 2014, doubling the number of LRT trains arriving in downtown Minneapolis to 500 arrivals and departures per day. TLC wrote a letter supporting the project as part of the application for TIGER funding.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (speaking) and l-r behind her: Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin; Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh; Will Schroeer, Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce; Charlie Zelle, Minneapolis Area Chamber of Commerce
Senator Amy Klobuchar gathered with local leaders on Thursday, December 22, to indicate the importance of this transportation investment to making the Twin Cities a thriving economic center. She was joined by Sue Haigh from the Met Council, several county commissioners and representatives from local Chambers of Commerce and the Minnesota Twins. A good-sized crowd gathered in the waiting area for Northstar commuter trains—another mode that serves the proposed location for the Interchange.
What is the Interchange? The Minneapolis Interchange and Saint Paul’s Union Depot will both act as multimodal hubs for the region’s growing transit network. The Minneapolis location for the proposed Interchange already serves both the Hiawatha light rail line and NorthStar commuter trains. The Interchange would serve the Central Corridor trains when it opens in 2014 and the Southwest LRT line, scheduled to open in 2018. It would also provide connections to more than 1,900 bus operations as well as to bicycle routes to surrounding neighborhoods and trails. Vehicle parking (400 new spaces) would also be part of the project. The Minneapolis Interchange also could serve any future high speed rail connections between Minneapolis/Saint Paul and Chicago. The newly renovated Saint Paul Union Depot will accommodate Amtrak trains traveling between Seattle and Chicago starting next year. The Minneapolis Interchange is a project of the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA).For more information about The Interchange, visit the project web site.
Senator Klobuchar said, “There’s a direct correlation between this kind of investment and economic development.” Noting the competition for these funds at the federal level, she said, “If they don’t come here they will go to Chicago or Arizona. I want it right here.” She thanked Representatives McCollum and Ellison, Senator Franken and former Senator Coleman for their support for the project at the federal level.
Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh said that hubs like the Interchange and Union Depot help shorten transit time, making it more attractive for people to choose transit for commuting and other trips. She said that rather than building more parking ramps, Minneapolis could focus on other kinds of development.
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said the Interchange plaza would direct the flow of passengers to the different travel options, for commuters and also fans coming to Target Field.
McLaughlin called the Interchange “a prudent risk to move the county and region forward” and make it more competitive. He noted that business allies strongly supported the project and the build out of the transit system. “We are not talking about individual lines, we are talking about a system,” he said, adding “we will live our lives differently and better with these investments.”
Will Schroeer from the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce and Charlie Zelle from the Minneapolis Area Chamber of Commerce both noted that the new hub would serve the people going to work using the Hiawatha and Central Corridor LRT lines. There are 280,000 jobs along the Central Corridor today, a number expected to rise to 374,000 by 2030. Zelle said, “Investments here are important for jobs at both ends of the Central Corridor LRT,” giving residents of Minneapolis and North Minneapolis access as well as opening the North Loop area for further development.
Minnesota Twins President David St. Peter said the Interchange would be “fulfillment of a vision our leaders had for a ballpark in the North Loop, with wonderful connections to transit.” He said fans will love accessing Target Field via the Northstar, Hiawatha, and the Central Corridor—hopefully for the All Star Game in 2014. He said, “These projects take vision, courage, and leadership.”
Funding for the Interchange project is not yet complete. According to a Star Tribune story, in addition to the $10 million from the TIGER grant, the Interchange project “was awarded $11 million by the Metropolitan Council. It also received $6.7 million from the county rail authority and $1.7 million from the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, which owns Target Field.” The Star Tribune reported the total project cost at $67.7 million. Commissioner McLaughlin said that there would be a proposal in coming weeks opening up options for public-private partnerships, including development rights, naming rights, and parking rights. The TIGER funding adds momentum to the project.