The North Loop near Target Field is quickly becoming one of the major transportation hubs in Minnesota, and the federal government awarded Hennepin County a $10 million grant in mid-December to overhaul the area.
Known as “The Interchange Project,” Hennepin County plans to spend about $67 million to build a plaza on the northwest side of Target Field. Officials are hopeful that a bigger plaza will alleviate the log jams around light rail stops and also give the west side of the ballpark a plaza like the east side has leading out toward Hennepin Avenue.
“The driving force behind this project is that it will make the transit work better for people,” said Hennepin County Commissioner and Regional Railroad Authority Chair Peter McLaughlin. “In addition to that, we also want to create a strong urban environment.”
The project’s design will go out for proposals this winter, but McLaughlin said it will expand the size of the promenade on the west side of the ballpark and allow separate platforms for the Hiawatha, Central Corridor and Southwest LRT lines. It will also have “fingers” that allow North Loop residents to get to their community easier and safer.
Below the plaza will be a parking lot, and the county also plans to allow for mixed-use development on 5th Street and 6th Avenue.
The Central Corridor is scheduled to open in 2014, and planners hope to have the Interchange project completed before then. More than 240 Hiawatha and North Star trains arrive and depart the Interchange daily. When the Central Corridor goes online, that number will increase to 500.
McLaughlin said about half of the project’s funding is in place. So far, about $10.8 million is coming from the county, $1.7 million from the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, $14.6 million in state bonding plus the $10 million from the federal government.
McLaughlin said he expects some of the remaining costs to come from the private sector via development rights
and parking rights.
The $10 million comes the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER program. Hennepin County was one of 46 applicants to secure funding. More than 800 projects applied, totaling $14 billion in requests. Only $511 million was awarded, an impressive feat for the county, McLaughlin said.
“This is a huge step forward,” he said.
Hennepin County lowers tax levy
The Hennepin County Board on Dec. 13 voted to lower its 2012 tax levy by $1 million compared to 2011, a 0.15 percent reduction.
It’s the second year in a row the board has lowered the Hennepin County levy. The total 2012 tax levy will be $668.4 million.
The Board also approved a $1.65 billion budget for 2012 on Dec. 13.
Susan Allen cruises to primary win
Susan Allen collected 82 percent of the votes in a Dec. 7 special DFL primary to fill the state house seat vacated by Jeff Hayden.
Allen won the DFL endorsement for the seat in November, and her challengers announced they would end their campaigns. Their names were still on the ballot, and Nelson Inz collected 9 percent of the vote, Paul Dennis got 5 percent and Josh Bassais got 4 percent.
Allen does not have a Republican challenger for the Jan. 10 election, but Nathan Blumenshine is running on a “Respect” platform.
Reach Nick Halter at firstname.lastname@example.org.