Updates on Central Corridor Alignment, Southwest Line, and Funding

Alignment of Central Corridor.
The University of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council came to an agreement on the alignment of the Central Corridor light rail line along Washington Avenue. The University pushed for an alignment through Dinkytown, and it paid for a study of such a route. University President Robert Bruininks said that study “had some encouraging findings,” but acknowledged that the northern route fell short of meeting current federal requirements on costs and ridership. Plans will continue this summer to approve the preliminary designs and submit an application in September for $450 million in federal money.
Part of the agreement between the University and the Metropolitan Council involves mitigation on and around campus. According to Peter Bell, Chair of the Met Council, mitigation costs near the University (including creating a transit mall along Washington Avenue, new signs, and making East River Road more accessible to traffic) are estimated at around $27 million, out of the $40 million allocated for such costs along the entire line.

University Avenue: Concerns About Central  Corridor.
Local communities along University Avenue are raising concerns about the impact of Central Corridor both during and after construction. At a June 2008 forum in St. Paul with Met Council Chair Peter Bell, activist Veronica Burt said the council needs to do more to make sure the light rail line doesn’t hurt small businesses and neighborhoods. Her group is considering suing the Met Council for not doing an adequate environmental impact study. Met Council Chair, Peter Bell, said the council is committed to easing the impact to neighborhoods, while acknowledging that there will be some growing pains. “I am convinced [that Central Corridor] will be overwhelmingly positive for both the businesses and the residents along
University Avenue,” Bell said. “But it will cause some dislocation, and I think change is always scary for people, and they want to know what type of dislocation and how can we minimize the impact or protect them from it.” (Story from Minnesota Public Radio).

Southwest Line.
The Southwest Transitway planning is moving along to the next step—the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). In the next month, project planners will unveil a new Web site (currently it’s www.southwesttransitway.org) and a schedule of public meetings, called scoping meetings. “It’s really an opportunity for the public to come and weigh in on what we’re doing,” said Katie Walker, the project manager with Hennepin County.

Bottineau Corridor.
Bottineau Corridor is now entering the Alternatives Analysis Study to determine the best mode (bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) for expedited transit along the Bottineau Corridor (running from downtown Minneapolis through the northwest suburbs). Initial public hearings will be held July 22-31st to give area residents, businesses, and communities input into the process. A second round of hearings will take place later on to present preliminary findings on mode choice and route placement. For more information, go to www.bottransit.org.

New Sales Tax For Transit  Projects Starts on July 1, 2008.
This past legislative session, the state legislature passed an omnibus transportation bill that included a new ¼ cent metropolitan sales tax solely dedicated to new light rail, commuter rail, and busways in five of the seven metro counties. Five of the seven eligible metropolitan counties (Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Washington, and Dakota) opted to form a regional partnership and use the sales tax to seed around $100 million in funding for new transit projects. The new funding will start to come in on July 1st, and the regional partnership (known as the Counties Transit Improvement Board, or CTIB) will meet soon thereafter to determine how to allocate the funding.

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