Council committee OKs funding for streetcar studies


Plans for streetcars on Nicollet and West Broadway got a boost from the City Council’s Transportation & Public Works Committee today.

The committee approved spending up to $150,000 for environmental review and other development activities for the Nicollet streetcar line and another $205,000 to study the feasibility of streetcars on West Broadway.

In early October the City Council gave the green light to a plan for a 3.4-mile streetcar line stretching from Lake Street to 5th Street Northeast. It would cross the river on the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

Capital costs for the project have been estimated at $180–200 million with another $10.6 million needed annually for operating and maintenance expenses. The Council has also approved a financing tool for the proposed streetcar line that would authorize the city to tap taxes generated from five parcels along the line. Those parcels are estimated to generate $6 million in taxes, which would allow the city to issue $60 million in bonds for the streetcar project.

City officials are leading the environmental assessment work for the project in partnership with the Metropolitan Council and the Federal Transit Administration, according to a Public Works report presented to the Council. The environmental review is expected to be done by fall 2014.

As for the West Broadway Transit Alternatives Study, city officials have been authorized to work with the Metropolitan Council and Hennepin Regional Railroad Authority to look into the possibility of a streetcar line or rapid bus service on West Broadway. Each funding partner is expected to pitch in $205,000 for the study.

A recommendation on the best transit option for the street would likely come in early 2015.