Southwest Corridor will be light rail, Council decides

Date: Monday, June 7, 2010

The Metropolitan Council in May approved light rail on the 14-mile Southwest Corridor between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, taking an important next step toward building the region’s third light-rail line.

At the same time the Council approved the “locally preferred alternative” along the Kenilworth-Opus-Golden Triangle alignment, it amended the region’s 2030 Transportation Policy Plan (TPP) to include LRT as the mode of choice in the corridor, making the project eligible for federal funding.

“World class cities have growing, vibrant transit systems,” said Council Chair Peter Bell. “The selection of the mode and alignment for this corridor is an important step. It moves the project to the next level and continues the process of building out the region’s rail corridor network.

“I want to commend Hennepin County and Commissioner Gail Dorfman, in particular, for the hard work of getting the project to this point in a long process,” said Bell. “We look forward to the county’s continued support.”

Southwest expected to be strong contender for funding

“I am pleased that Southwest LRT has reached this milestone and is transitioning to the Metro Council,” said Commissioner Dorfman. “I am confident Southwest LRT will be a strong candidate in the competition for federal dollars. Light rail in the corridor will generate strong ridership, connect people with key destinations and serve as a catalyst for economic development.”

The locally preferred alternative (LPA) was recommended to the Council by the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority and the communities that the corridor will serve. With Minneapolis and Eden Prairie at either end, the corridor passes through the cities of Minnetonka, Hopkins and St. Louis Park.

The light rail line will connect two major job centers and link to three other rail corridors at the Target Field Station in Minneapolis, including Hiawatha, Central and Northstar. It will provide access to destinations such as the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Mall of America, the State Capitol and downtown St. Paul.

Council will seek permission to begin preliminary engineering

The Council expects to submit a “New Starts” application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) this summer, asking for permission to begin preliminary engineering (PE) on the project.  Approval from the FTA to enter PE is anticipated by the end of the year. Construction and completion timelines will be more firmly established in the PE process. 

Southwest LRT is projected to provide approximately 28,000 rides a day by 2030, comparable to current ridership on Hiawatha LRT. 

The project cost is estimated at up to $1.25 billion. At this time, it is anticipated that funds for capital costs will come from four sources: the Counties Transit Improvement Board’s transit sales tax in the metro area (30 percent), the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (10 percent), the State of Minnesota (10 percent) and the FTA (50 percent).

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