Transportation Notebook

46th Street bridge demolition postponed
Officials in charge of the Crosstown Reconstruction project have decided not to demolish the 46th Street bridge this year. According to resident engineer Steve Barrett, waiting to take the bridge down until March or April 2008 will give workers a better time buffer.

Contractually, they have 460 days from the time the old bridge comes down to get the new bridge built, and weren’t sure they’d meet the deadline if demolition began this year. Barrett said they hope to have the new 46th Street bridge up by next fall, but it could carry over into 2009. The demolition delay will not affect the overall Crosstown Reconstruction schedule.

Instead, work will continue to focus on building retaining walls this winter. Workers are also trying to get all of the Diamond Lake Road ramps open before the end of the year. Starting in mid-December, the 46th Street ramps to and from southbound Interstate 35W will be closed until 2010 and the ramps to and from northbound I-35W will be closed until 2009. At the end of December, the ramp from eastbound Highway 62 to Lyndale Avenue will close until September 2009. Additionally, the 50th Street bridge is scheduled to reopen in fall 2008. Drivers should remember to pay attention to traffic switches on local streets and the freeway, Barrett said.

Central Corridor LRT update
Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (LRT) staff members have proposed a new West Bank station under the 19th Street overpass as a result of community feedback. According to project documents, the new location is about a block west of the original spot and thought to be more accessible for pedestrians.

Staff has also settled on locations for the Westgate, Raymond, Fairview, Snelling, Lexington and Dale stations along University Avenue in St. Paul. Engineers can now begin designing the tracks and identifying the impact of underground utilities for the six-mile stretch.

In November, members of the Central Corridor Management Committee visited Salt Lake City’s University of Utah and San Diego State in California to get a look at different LRT facilities. The Utah LRT operates at street level, while the San Diego trains use tunnels. The committee learned that traffic and parking demands have decreased significantly at both schools — San Diego State is even thinking about turning some of its empty parking lots into buildings.

The 11-mile Central Corridor, which wouldn’t be open until 2014, would connect downtown Minneapolis with downtown St. Paul along University and Washington avenues. It would include 16 stations, in addition to five stops shared with the Hiawatha LRT. Currently, workers are in the preliminary engineering phase, which will last until 2009. Once the project secures 50 percent federal, 33 percent state and 17 percent local matching funds, it can move into the final design phase.

Southwest takes second in bike-to-school competition
South High School and Southwest High School ranked first and second, respectively, in the fall 2007 Total Bikes League, a competition that counts the number of bikes parked outside local schools. Officials counted 68 bikes at Southwest —11 bikes shy of winner South High School. Third place went to Richfield High School with 58 bikes.

In terms of total ridership, officials placed Southwest third with 4.67 percent of students biking to school. Wellstone/Uptown Academy came in fourth with 4 percent.

The Minnesota Bike-to-School League includes 31 public and private schools within eight miles of the Minneapolis Central Library that have 350 or more students. The top 10 school in the total bikes and total ridership categories will advance to the winter and spring competitions. The winter count will take place in early February, and the spring count will begin in late April.

Contact Mary O’Regan at [email protected] or 436-5088.

Transportation notebook

Northstar locomotive designs unveiled

Metro Transit has finalized the exterior design of the locomotives for the Northstar Commuter Rail project. The deep royal blue trains will be covered in waves of red, yellow and white pouring from an asymmetrical yellow star. According to project officials, the design is reminiscent of the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit (LRT) trains, blended with the Northstar icon.

The 40-mile commuter trains will run from Downtown to Big Lake, Minn. along Highway 10 with stops in Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, and Fridley and a potential future route to St. Cloud. The Hiawatha LRT is in the process of getting a four-block extension so that the trains can meet at North 5th Street. An estimated 5,070 people are expected to ride the Northstar corridor route daily when it opens in 2009. Tickets will cost $4–$6 per ride with amenities including worktables, power outlets, restrooms and individual seats.

Northstar, Central Corridor LRT seek funding

According to a statement from U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, the 2008 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriation Bill conference report includes $55 million for the Northstar Commuter Rail project. The bill, which still needs approval from the Senate and President Bush, would also provide funding for transit, highways and aviation projects throughout Minnesota, including $195 million for reconstructing the I-35W bridge.

"We need to embrace innovative transportation solutions to ease our dependence on foreign oil and mitigate traffic in the Twin Cities," Coleman said. "I recognize the funding level concerns of the overall bill, which could possibly lead to a presidential veto. This funding, however, is critical to Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure, and I will work with my colleagues to see that it is included in the final bill."

In October, the federal government approved the Northstar’s request for a full funding grant agreement, which will account for roughly half of the project’s $320 million cost.  A 60-day congressional review for the grant ends Dec. 10, with a ceremony tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11. The $55 million in the 2008 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriation Bill conference report would be part of the full funding grant agreement.

The remaining half of the cost of the commuter rail line will come from the following sources:

• $98.6 million from the state

• $34.8 million from Anoka County

• $8.2 million from Sherburne County

• $7.9 million from Hennepin County

• $5.9 million from the Metropolitan Council

• $2.6 million from the Minnesota Twins

The 2008 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriation Bill conference report also includes $10.4 million for the Central Corridor LRT project. The entire project is expected to cost $930 million and will be up for a federal full funding grant in 2009.

The Central Corridor currently has about $45 million to date for preliminary engineering costs, which includes $7.7 million from Federal Transit Administration (FTA); just under $13 million in state bonding; $7.3 million from Hennepin County; and $17 million from Ramsey County.

Next August, officials will submit the results of the preliminary engineering to the FTA and, if accepted, get approval to enter the final engineering stage.

The train, which wouldn’t be open until 2014, would connect downtown Minneapolis with downtown St. Paul along University and Washington Avenues. At 11 miles long, it would include 16 stations, in addition to five stops shared with the Hiawatha LRT.


Commuter Choice Awards

Thirteen individuals and organizations won Commuter Choice Awards from Metro Transit this month for helping people get to work without adding to traffic congestion. Minneapolis Community and Technical College was among the recipients, winning an award for promoting Go-To College Passes for students, offering more bike racks and adding motorcycle parking. The University of Minnesota also won a large organization award for successfully implementing a transit and transportation response plan after the I-35W bridge collapse.

Contact Mary O’Regan at [email protected] or 436-5088.