Transportation Project Updates in the Twin Cities Region

So what’s happening with all of the proposed transit, walking, and bicycling developments in the Twin Cities region? Well, we have news about the Central Corridor, the Southwest Line, and the Rush Line, as well as openings of several Bike Walk Twin Cities projects, and an opportunity to provide input on Minneapolis’ pedestrian plan (which was also funded through the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative).

Southwest Transitway Takes a Major Step Forward by Launching the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS); Final “Scoping” Meeting Dates

The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA), in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), is launching the Southwest Transitway DEIS, the next major phase of project development for the proposed light rail transit (LRT) line. The proposed 14-mile LRT line will provide more than 28,000 trips per day, improving travel times and providing access to jobs in the fastest growing area of the metro. The line is proposed to serve the cities of Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minneapolis.

“This is quite a substantial step for the Southwest Transitway project and one that puts it in the queue right behind the Central Corridor LRT project which will connect downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul,” said Gail Dorfman, Hennepin County Commissioner and Chair of the Southwest Policy Advisory Committee. “We’ve had broad-based community and business support in getting to this stage. We’ve worked as a team and that’s essential.”

To launch the DEIS, the HCRRA is hosting public “scoping” meetings giving the public an opportunity to review and comment on alternatives for improving transit service in the southwest metro area. The meetings consist of an open house to learn more about the project, plus a public hearing — a forum for comment.

Scoping meeting information is as follows:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the Hennepin County Government Center (300 South 6th St., Minneapolis, 612 348 3169). Open House 2 p.m.; Public Hearing 3 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the St. Louis Park City Hall (5005 Minnetonka Boulevard, St. Louis Park, 55416). Open House 5 p.m.; Public Hearing 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 23 at the Eden Prairie City Hall (8080 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie, 55344). Open House 5 p.m.; Public Hearing 6 p.m.

More information: http://www.southwesttransitway.org/home.html

Rush Line Undertakes Alternatives Analysis; Needs Public Input

The Rush Line Corridor Task Force, made up of more than two dozen elected officials from counties and municipalities along the corridor, is undertaking a federal alternatives analysis to examine transit improvements between Hinckley and the Twin Cities.

The task force has hired transportation consulting firm URS to complete an alternatives analysis. An alternatives analysis is the first phase in the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program, which funds new projects and extensions to existing transit systems. In the analysis, different routes (such as I-35/I-35E, Highway 61/County Road 30, and various existing and former freight railroad lines) and several modes of transit will be considered and evaluated for their benefits, costs and impacts.

The Task Force will hold a series of public meetings over the next year to discuss transit along the 80-mile corridor from downtown St. Paul to Hinckley. Several bus rapid transit, light rail transit, and commuter rail options will be open for community discussion at a pair of open houses this fall:

  • October 2: 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Maplewood Community Center, 2100 White Bear Avenue, with presentations at 6 and 7 p.m. Click here for a map to the open house.
  • October 7: 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 6355 379th Street, with presentations at 6 and 7 p.m. Click here for a map to the open house.

The following modes were considered for the Rush Line Corridor:

  • Bus, both conventional and electric trolley bus
  • Bus rapid transit, conventional and guided bus
  • Light rail transit
  • Modern streetcar
  • Magnetic levitation
  • Heavy rail
  • Commuter rail, both conventional and diesel multiple unit
  • Automated guideway transit

The Alternatives Analysis study will conclude in mid-2009. At that time, the counties, cities and townships along the Rush Line Corridor will recommend a next step, which could be anything from pursuing a “build” mode (BRT, light rail or commuter rail) to continuing to advocate for additional bus service in the corridor.

For more information, call Tim Mayasich at (651) 266-2762.

Central Corridor Plans Refined to Meet Tight Deadline (adapted from the Star Tribune)
THE LATEST: With construction costs escalating and a federal deadline at the beginning of this month, planners of the Central Corridor light-rail line have pared back items such as the amount of track at a maintenance yard and the number of ticket machines at each station.

NEW ESTIMATE: The construction estimate, presented at a meeting of the line’s planners, is just shy of $915 million, up from $892 million earlier this year. Mark Fuhrmann, the project director, said prices for such necessities as asphalt and fuel are driving the increase, with the cost of steel for the tracks doubling since last year.

APPLICATION SENT: The Federal Transit Administration is expected to fund half the cost of the 11-mile line, which will link the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Metropolitan Council submitted its application to move into the final design phase.

As currently proposed, the project includes 15 new stations, a transit mall on Washington Avenue within the University of Minnesota campus and the substructure for three additional stations at Western, Victoria and Hamline avenues in St. Paul that could be added later.

The line will share five stations with the existing Hiawatha line in Minneapolis and terminate at a new intermodal station now under construction adjacent to the new Twins ballpark. That station also will serve the new 40-mile Northstar commuter rail line, which is scheduled begin service by the end of 2009.

The line’s costs, ridership estimates and travel times are plugged into a complex federal formula called the cost-effectiveness index. The feds look favorably on a cost effectiveness index (CEI) of $24.49 or less; the figure for the Central Corridor configuration presented in the application is $24.41.

SOME GOOD NEWS: A trip from one end of the line to the other has been trimmed by 62 seconds, to 39 minutes, 13 seconds. Engineers softened some curves to allow higher speeds and reduced the number of traffic signals trains will encounter. The line is set to open in 2014.

Minneapolis Pedestrian Plan
The Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative provided funding for the City of Minneapolis to develop a Pedestrian Master Plan to help the City improve and maintain pedestrian facilities and get more people farther and more often. The Plan will help to unify numerous interests into a comprehensive strategy so the city can focus its resources to make the most of its walking environment.

More information is available at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/pedestrian/pedestrian-masterplan.asp.

Three Bike Walk Twin Cities Projects Opening This Fall
In June 2007, the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative provided funding to numerous projects in Minneapolis and its neighboring communities. Three of these projects may open in the fall of 2008.

  • Minnehaha. This 1.73 mile project will add bike lanes to the Minnehaha Avenue corridor (from 31st St to 46th St) corridor in South Minneapolis, in addition to upgrading the existing 20th Avenue bike lanes to year-round facilities. It will include signage, striping, sealcoating and bike racks. This corridor will provide a much needed connection between the LRT Trail and the existing Minnehaha Avenue bike facilities.
  • Glenwood.This 1.82-mile project will add bicycle lanes along Glenwood Avenue from Xerxes Avenue to Royalston Avenue, and will reduce the number of road lanes from four to three. Bicycle chevrons will be placed where the bike lane would otherwise run, supplemented by three-foot passing signs for motorists. Where only two lanes exist, parking may need to be removed in some locations. The project also includes signage, striping, sealcoating, and bicycle racks.
  • 27th Avenue SE.This .55 miles project will add bike lanes to the 27th Avenue corridor in southeast Minneapolis, as well as a signed connection to the UofM Transitway Bike Trail. It will include signage, striping, sealcoating and bicycle racks. The project necessitates either removal of parking between University Avenue and Essex Street along w/ a 3-to-4 lane conversion or otherwise converting rush-hour restricted parking to 24-hour parking, along with a 4-to-2 lane conversion.