Southwest Transitway route selection headed for Council

Date: Thursday, November 12, 2009

In early November, the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority (HCRRA) unanimously recommended a “locally preferred alternative” route for the line. That recommendation will come to the Council for consideration and adoption early next year.

Map excerpt shows the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority’s preferred route, 3A, as it heads southwest out of downtown Minneapolis through the Kenilworth Corridor. See larger map of the preferred Southwest Corridor light rail route.

The recommended route, known as “3A,” runs from downtown Minneapolis through the Kenilworth corridor until it joins with HCRRA right-of-way west of Lake Calhoun. The route follows the right-of-way southwest to the Hopkins/Minnetonka border, just east of Shady Oak Road. At that point, it heads south through Eden Prairie’s Opus/Golden Triangle, and then turns west to the Eden Prairie Town Center and the Southwest Transit Station. The route terminates at Mitchell Rd. 

Route promises strong ridership 

At the Nov. 3 meeting of the HCRRA, member Gail Dorfman said that Route 3A provide access to jobs, serves neighborhoods well and has strong ridership numbers. Ridership in 2030 is projected to be 28,700 daily.

“Both the Technical Advisory Committee and the Policy Advisory Committee selected it because it’s the best one,” Dorfman said. “This alignment fits well with the existing transit system and improves the regional transit system for the future.”

The cost to build the 14-mile line along the preferred route is currently estimated at $1.2 billion in 2015 dollars. Alternative routes through Uptown would have cost an additional $600 million to build, Dorfman said. “They just weren’t viable.”

Dorfman characterized the multi-year process for studying and choosing the route as “open and transparent” and said it was informed by “a lot of vigorous debate.” HCCRA  member Jan Callison agreed. She enumerated the scores of meetings held by three committees over a seven-year period, in addition to 27 open houses.

Southwest LRT will connect with both the Hiawatha (pictured here) and Central Corridor lines, as well as with Northstar Commuter Rail.

The choice of a route traveling through the Opus/Golden Triangle area reflects the input of the community, Callison said. “I’m a supporter of 3A. It’s clearly the only choice financially.”

Next steps: transition to the Council

In December, the Metropolitan Council will receive from Hennepin County a summary report of the extensive alternatives analysis for the Southwest Corridor. The report will discuss the modes and alignments studied, the criteria for evaluating the alternatives, and a description of how the preferred alternative was chosen.

After studying the report, the Council will consider a resolution selecting the alignment and mode for the corridor. Following that, the Council will amend its 2030 Transportation Policy Plan to incorporate the preferred alternative, as required by federal regulations. Next, the Council will submit an application to the Federal Transit Administration to enter the preliminary engineering phase for the line.

The Southwest Transitway Corridor is part of a system of regional transitways envisioned by the Metropolitan Council to achieve a doubling of the region’s 2000 transit ridership by 2030. Already in operation are Hiawatha LRT, MnPASS lanes and express bus service in the I-394 corridor, and Northstar Commuter Rail. Bus rapid transit is being constructed in the Cedar Avenue and I-35W South corridors, and construction of light rail in the Central Corridor is scheduled to begin in next year.

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