Potential LRT lines explained

Hennepin County officials show off mass transit plans in Uptown

A Hennepin County study that could culminate in new mass transit in Southwest is still in the early planning stages, but Uptown residents had the opportunity to see possible routes for a light-rail transit at a community meeting on Dec. 14 at Grace Trinity Church, 1430 W. 28th St.

Hennepin County officials from five cities, including Minneapolis, are completing a light-rail transit study begun in 2003 of Southwest-suburb-to-Downtown links. One of the options officials are studying is a light-rail transit line that would run from suburbs as far south as Eden Prairie into Downtown.

Two routes

Katie Walker, Hennepin County's Southwest Rail Corridor transit study project manager, told community members that, for now, officials are considering two main routes for the light-rail transit.

Alternative A would run from various Southwest suburb points through Downtown via the Kenilworth Corridor. It would enter Minneapolis just before reaching a station on West Lake Street. From West Lake Street, the route would follow the Kenilworth Corridor with stations at 21st Street, Penn Avenue and Van White/Dunwoody Boulevard. From there, the route has two different options. It could either go north to a single station at Royalston Avenue or go up Hennepin Avenue and have stations at 14th, 10th and 6th streets.

Alternative B would also run from various Southwest suburb points and would enter the city just before the station at West Lake Street. However, it would run down the Midtown Greenway Corridor and have stations in Uptown and on Lyndale Avenue and 28th Street. At the station on 28th Street, it would turn north on Nicollet Avenue and enter a shallow underground tunnel. It would remain in the tunnel until it reaches a station at Franklin Avenue, where it would resurface and once again run at ground level. From the station at Franklin Avenue, the light rail would run up either Nicollet Avenue, Marquette Avenue or 2nd Avenue.

The key to either of these options is finding a route that would allow the light rail to travel at a rapid speed yet still have enough stops so it can pick up a large number of riders, Walker said.

&#8220Those are kind of the trade-offs,” she said.

Five phases of study

City Planner Beth Elliott said right now officials working on the plan aren't favoring either alternative. They will wait to see further results of the study before making recommendations on either choice, she said.

The study consists of five phases. First, an alternatives study must be completed to determine the method of transit, routes, station locations, and estimated cost and ridership numbers. This is the stage the current study is in. So far, officials have defined the routes, technologies and station locations but are still studying ridership numbers, cost and the potential impacts to both the environment and the community. Walker said she expects the alternatives study for the Southwest Transitway will be completed by the fall or winter of 2006. At that time, officials will know what technology and what route will be used in the transitway.

After that, an environmental impact study will be performed. Then preliminary engineering plans will begin, followed by the final design. When that final design is completed, the construction phase can begin.

According to the 2003 study, a Southwest rail transitway is estimated to cost from $431 to $926 million in 2010 dollars to construct. The study also states that the annual cost to operate a Southwest rail transitway is estimated to range from $7 to $26 million. According to the study, this puts such a line in the mid-range in terms of capital and operating costs when compared to operational light-rail transit lines across the country.

Organizers of the study have been meeting with area residents for months to get their input and answer any questions early in the planning stages.

&#8220This first meeting was just a chance to make sure people knew about it,” said Ward 10 Councilmember Dan Niziolek, one of the officials present at the meeting. &#8220It's really important that the community is a part of this conversation.”

Officials said once they have more data from the current alternatives study, they would again meet with residents to further discuss the various options for mass transit routes.

For more information about the study, or to add input, e-mail Katie Walker at [email protected].