Big plans for the Twin Cities region
Here is a little known fact: right now, the Twin Cities region is in the midst of the largest expansion of its transportation system since the construction of our interstate highways. In order to keep pace with an estimated population increase of 750,000 people by the year 2040, we will need to add 19 new rapid transitways, as well as significantly expand and enhance our local bus routes.
As this work moves forward, MnDOT, the seven metro counties, and all of the region’s cities are working to make sure that our roads keep up with today’s demands and—as the region grows—will move people and products efficiently so our region remains competitive in the global marketplace.
This year, we made significant progress on the transit portion of that plan. By next summer we expect to see the A Line bus rapid transit (BRT) service connecting Rosedale Center, via Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway, with the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station in Minneapolis. Planning is moving ahead on the Orange Line BRT in the I-35W corridor south of downtown Minneapolis. And, in the next few weeks, the Bottineau light rail transit (LRT) project is going before the cities it will serve for municipal approval.
We also made a lot of progress in 2015 on the METRO Green Line Extension (SWLRT) from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. We met challenges concerning the project’s cost, and Hennepin County and the cities that will be served by the line came to a consensus on the project’s final design and scope.
Currently, 83% of the local funding for the project has been committed – that local funding comes from the Counties Transit Improvement Board, Hennepin County and the local communities that will be served by the line. A full half of the funding - $887 million – will come from the federal government. We’re in good shape on that front: President Obama has recommended federal funding for the project, and the U.S. Congress has included us in its 2016 omnibus appropriations. But the federal government will only make its funding commitment real once all the local funding is formally committed.
The missing piece is the state share. The final chunk of local funding has to come from the Minnesota Legislature. We are working with project partners and advocates to secure that funding.
I am confident that legislators will take a look at the big picture this year and pass the legislation that will give us the final go ahead on the Green Line Extension–the largest single public works project in the state’s history. It will bring thousands of jobs to the corridor both during the construction phase and beyond. Let’s keep the momentum going.
By Adam Duininck
See "Getting a Green Light for the Green Line," a guest column in the SunCurrent written by Duininck.