Transportation roundup

New route floated for proposed Southwest Transitway LRT line

Attention Blaisdell and 1st Avenue homeowners: there is a chance that a light rail train could come cruising past your doorsteps in an underground tunnel.

A modified light rail route proposed by City Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) would send Southwest Transitway trains from Eden Prairie into Downtown via Blaisdell or 1st Avenue, rather than Nicollet. The tunnel would stretch from a point south of 28th Street to Franklin Avenue, with stations at 28th and Franklin.

Remington’s alternative might help alleviate the concerns of some Eat Street business owners. County staff have heard complaints that owners would feel the pinch of road construction without ever seeing the benefit of a convenient stop close to their shops.

Remington said that one way or another, he wants light rail to come through Uptown to serve the dense population and give businesses a suburban traffic boost.

"My constituents want LRT that runs through the core of Uptown," Remington said. "Otherwise, a lot of the folks that might take light rail or mass transit aren’t going to do it if they have to go all the way over to West Lake to catch a train."

If the trains don’t take Nicollet or a nearby street, the competing option on the table is to route them north at West Lake Street and send them between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles and up through the Kenilworth Corridor toward Downtown.

A final decision on the light rail alignment is expected sometime this summer. In the meantime, Hennepin County staff will update Southwest neighborhoods throughout the month of March and work on an environmental impact study that will help them choose the best alignment for the train.

Staff will study Remington’s proposed Blaisdell and 1st Avenue routes, but they already know of a few challenges on those streets. 1st Avenue is 14 feet narrower than Nicollet. That means construction equipment would be stacked right outside houses and train tunnel walls would come close to some home foundations.

The topography is a bit more challenging on Blaisdell and 1st avenues, and a technical advisory committee thought Blaisdell shouldn’t warrant further analysis. In addition, part of 1st Avenue might stand in a historic district, and there might be historic properties at Blaisdell & Franklin.

If trains reached Downtown via Nicollet or a nearby street, they could take 11th and 12th Streets to connect to the new ballpark station. Another option is routing trains to the Hiawatha light rail track via Nicollet Mall.

The Southwest Transitway could be up and running as soon as 2015.

County wants to fix bridges

The guts of three historic Midtown Corridor bridges are becoming exposed to the elements, and county workers want to fix the bridges before they become
irreparable.

Information about rehab work on bridges over Dean Parkway, Knox Avenue, and the channel between Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun will be available at a March 16 open house.

Concrete has crumbled away on portions of the piers, leaving the rebar at risk of rusting.

"If we do it now, there is a good chance that we can preserve the bridges," said Dean Michalko, senior professional engineer for Hennepin County. "If we ignore it, there’s a good chance that the bridges could have to be rebuilt in the near future."

He said workers would attempt to match the ornamental surface details as closely as possible. The bridges were built in 1912 as part of the railroad line running through the area.

The open house will run from 6–8 p.m. at the Kenwood Community Center, 2101 W. Franklin Ave.

Reach Michelle Bruch at 436-4372 or mbruch@mnpubs.com