Blue Line Extension LRT Project achieves milestone with Federal Transit Administration approval to enter engineering phase

Date: Thursday, January 19, 2017

Extension will connect downtown Minneapolis to northwest metro, create 6,500 construction jobs

The project to build a light rail line connecting the suburbs northwest of Minneapolis to downtown cleared a major hurdle today. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today gave the Blue Line Extension LRT Project a green light to start the engineering phase of the project. This approval comes only a month after the Southwest LRT, Green Line Extension Project received the same approval. The engineering work is necessary for project staff to finalize designs in preparation for the start of construction in 2018.

“Our region has a strong reputation nationally for successfully delivering on transit projects,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck. “We will apply in fall 2017 for the Full Funding Grant Agreement and anticipate receiving that federal commitment in early 2018. The Blue Line Extension has achieved this milestone because the project has support at the federal and local levels and from the business community as well.”

When the extension projects are complete, residents will be able to access jobs, education, health facilities, entertainment and services with a one-seat ride or one transfer in downtown Minneapolis.  This includes 10 of the region’s 17 Fortune 500 companies, the University of Minnesota and a number private colleges, six sports venues/stadiums, Hennepin County Medical Center and the VA Medical Center, Mall of America and the two terminals of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. 

Blue Line Extension will serve 180,000 jobs by 2035

“The Blue Line Extension LRT Project will create an estimated 6,500 construction jobs, totaling $300 million in payroll for workers, who will come from all over the state,” project director Dan Soler said. When the 13-mile line opens in 2021, it will provide access to about 155,000 jobs along the line and in downtown Minneapolis. By 2035, this number is expected to grow to 180,000 jobs. 

The corridor is already seeing new investment. Recent development along the Blue Line Extension, which will begin construction in 2018 and open in 2021, had reached $358 million in spring 2016. Much of the commercial and industrial development is occurring within a half mile of the planned Brooklyn Boulevard, 85th Avenue, 93rd Avenue and Oak Grove Parkway stations. 

Next steps include securing remaining 10 percent local funding, advancing designs

The FTA cleared the Blue Line Extension’s environmental review in September 2016, paving the way for the project to advance designs to a 60 percent level of detail by the end of the first three months of this year.  

The project has received local funding commitments from the Counties Transit Improvement Board, Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota Department of Transportation and Hennepin County. Next steps include securing the remaining 10 percent of local funding before applying this fall for the federal funding commitment and advancing designs to a 90 percent level of detail in the third quarter and to 100 percent by the end of the year for the civil or heavy construction. The Full Funding Grant Agreement would commit the FTA to pay 49 percent of the capital costs of the project, or $753 million.

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