ST. PAUL – Nov. 1, 2011 -- A rebuilt downtown St. Paul skyway opened today, kicking off a series of elements to be completed in the next month to wrap up the first of two years of heavy construction on the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project.
While much remains to be done by the end of November, much also has been accomplished since heavy construction began the first day of spring with roadway removal on University Avenue. With 32 percent of the construction complete, key accomplishments include:
Skyway was rebuilt and reopened over Fifth Street from Alliance Bank Center to the St. Paul Athletic Club, reconnecting the skyway system to the west end of downtown, the Xcel Energy Center and St. Paul River Centre.
The Central Corridor LRT Project’s portion of the work to restore Union Depot’s front entrance was completed last week, allowing Christos restaurant to reopen soon in the depot head house.
Embedded track is in place over most of a six-block stretch of Fourth Street in downtown St. Paul from Broadway to Minnesota streets.
Curved track installation began in late October on 12th Street between Robert and Cedar streets.
A mile of track is in place on the western end of University Avenue in St. Paul.
The University of Minnesota transitway was rebuilt and reopened before the start of the Minnesota State Fair and the fall semester.
Structural steel is up at six stations – Union Depot, Capitol East, Snelling Avenue, Fairview Avenue, Raymond Avenue and Westgate.
Foundation work or platforms are in the ground at the Fourth and Cedar Street, East Bank and West Bank stations.
Westbound Washington Avenue was rebuilt on the West Bank.
A flyover or train bridge was built over Interstate 35W. The flyover connects Central Corridor tracks with the Hiawatha LRT line between the Cedar-Riverside and Metrodome stations.
Since late summer, extra crews have been working extended hours with two big goals in mind. One is to finish paving and open four lanes of traffic by Nov. 30 on the western three miles of University Avenue in St. Paul between Emerald Street and Hamline Avenue. The other is to reopen Fourth Street in its final configuration by Nov. 30. When finished, Fourth will have single lane two-way traffic east of Wacouta Street and single-lane one-way traffic westbound west of Wacouta.
“The streets and sidewalks will be returned to a drivable, walkable and plowable condition with full lighting as the contractor finishes its work this season on western University Avenue,” said Mark Fuhrmann, program director for New Starts rail projects in the Twin Cities. “The contractor is working hard to fulfill its obligation and reopen two lanes eastbound and two lanes westbound between Emerald and Hamline.”
Episcopal Homes of Minnesota at Fairview and University is among businesses and institutions in the construction zone that have endured months of disruption. But Marvin Plakut, president and chief executive officer of Episcopal Homes, takes a long view. “I keep coming back to this: Let’s keep our eye on the prize. The Midway district of St. Paul is going to be a substantially superior place to live, work and have fun after light rail is finished than before it was started.”
Property manager Barb Hofmeister at Court International, a large office building at Highway 280 and University, said her property lost no tenants and received no complaints from tenants as a result of construction. A new tenant moved into Court International in October, another tenant is coming in November and still another in January.
While exiting the parking lot in the evening was a “little bit of a hassle” when construction was occurring in front of the building, Hofmeister said, “We all figured out our tricks to get around it. We all know it’s coming to an end shortly.”
Overall, she said, “I thought it went extremely well. We’ve all learned to just live with it.”
Kathy Bjerke, senior vice president at Park Midway Bank, which has a location at University and Vandalia Street, had a similar view.
“Despite some of the things that always go along with construction, the project is going to be good for the city. We’re excited about the impact it can have on the Midway in terms of development,” Bjerke said.
By Nov. 30 in the Capitol area:
The Robert Street and University Avenue intersection is to reopen.
Robert from University to 12th Street will have single lane two-way traffic restored.
Twelfth between Robert and Cedar streets will have two-lane traffic westbound restored.
In Minneapolis, crews for Ames-McCrossan Joint Venture, the contractor building the line’s western three miles, have their to-do list for November, too.
By Nov. 30, vehicular traffic is to be restored between Walnut and Oak streets on Washington Avenue
The first rail is to be installed by the end of the month on the East Bank.
In mid-November, the contractor will switch traffic from the north side of the Washington Avenue Bridge to the newly reconstructed south side to allow crews to rebuild the north side. They are strengthening the bridge to accommodate two tracks in the middle in addition to one lane of traffic in each direction on the outside.
The transit-pedestrian mall between Pleasant and Walnut streets, which closed permanently in May to vehicular traffic, will remain under heavy construction throughout 2012.
About the project
The Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project will link downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis along Washington and University avenues via the state Capitol and the University of Minnesota. Construction began in late 2010 on the planned 11-mile Central Corridor line, and service will begin in 2014. The line will connect with the Hiawatha LRT line at the Metrodome station in Minneapolis and the Northstar commuter rail line at Target Field Station. The Metropolitan Council is the grantee of federal funds. The regional government agency is charged with building the line in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The Central Corridor Management Committee, which includes commissioners from Ramsey and Hennepin counties, the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, provides advice and oversight. Funding is provided by the Federal Transit Administration, Counties Transit Improvement Board, state of Minnesota, Ramsey and Hennepin counties’ regional railroad authorities, city of St. Paul, Metropolitan Council and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.
Central Corridor LRT Project