Transportation notebook

Public hearing on new I-35W bridge

The City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee is holding a public municipal consent hearing regarding the proposed layout for a new Interstate 35W bridge on Sept. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in Thrivent Financial Auditorium, 625 4th Ave. S.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has put together a proposal for the new bridge, which looks similar to the old bridge but wider. The new design would have five lanes in each direction, two of which would be able to support bus rapid transit. In keeping with Mayor R.T. Rybak and Governor Tim Pawlenty’s wishes, the bridge would also be light-rail-ready.

“We invite and encourage folks throughout the metro area and beyond to play a role in this discussion,” Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, chair of the Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee said in a prepared statement. “It’s important that we hear as many voices as possible to ensure that we build a bridge that can serve our communities for decades to come.”

Representatives from MnDOT have estimated that the new bridge will be completed in the fall of 2008.

Metro Transit buses to use biodiesel fuel

Metro Transit officials have announced new efforts to make their buses more eco-friendly. Effective immediately, all vehicles will begin using 10 percent blended biodiesel fuel during winter months. From March to November, buses will run on a 20 percent blended biodiesel fuel. As a result, Metro Transit drivers will reduce their consumption of diesel fuel by 1.2 million gallons a year.

Biodiesel is a renewable resource derived from numerous organic materials such as soybeans, cooking grease and hazelnuts. It can be used in diesel engines as a blended formula or replacement for diesel

entirely. Using the environmentally friendly fuel cuts back on emissions and lessens the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

According to a statement from Metro Transit, they’ve been using a 5 percent blended biodiesel fuel for the past 14 months. The substance tends to gel in very cold weather, so Metro Transit decided to use a 10 percent blend in the winter and a 20 percent mix from spring to fall.

As part of their Go Greener Initiative, Metro Transit also plans to purchase 150 hybrid electric buses, which will produce fewer emissions and get better mileage.

New bus route into Downtown

Crosstown reconstruction has only made traffic worse in Southwest Minneapolis and Richfield. To combat congestion, Metro Transit is creating a new express route that will travel between Richfield and Downtown. The route will travel on 76th Street, Penn Avenue, 66th Street and Lyndale Avenue in Richfield, and make stops along 2nd Avenue in Downtown. The total travel time is 30 minutes and fare costs $2.75 each way.

More people using public transit

According to a recent report from Metro Transit, July ridership on buses and trains was 6 percent higher than the previous year, with 6.3 million customers. Of the 27,000 people that used Metropasses, many take part in a company discount program. The majority of the growth was among local riders and those using routes with frequent stops.

Light rail ridership, however, was down 5.9 percent, which officials say was due to Humphrey Terminal’s yearlong construction and station closure. The stop reopened on Sept. 8.

“We are well ahead of the pace we need to top our goal of 75 million rides this year,” said General Manager Brian Lamb in a prepared statement. Should they meet their goal, Metro Transit’s ridership will be at its highest in 23 years.

Contact Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.