mpls: SouthWest Light Rail Plans Unveiled

The Southwest Journal reports on a meeting last month that publicly revealed two options for a light rail line through SouthWest Minneapolis. The article doesn't explain how far south the transit corridor would stretch (though it hints that it might reach Apple Valley), but it does give the two choices for the Uptown/Lakes part of the proposed train.

The first choice would run mostly along what's called the Kenliworth Corridor, a train line that parallels Highway 7 through Saint Louis Park. It would cut across the tangletown on the West side of Lake of the Isles (with a stop right at Cedar Lake's Hidden Beach!), and then follow the existing railway along the Western edge of Downtown before connecting with our existing train.

The second choice would go South along Lyndale Avenue through an underground tunnel from Franklin to 28th St, where it would follow the Greenway all the way over to the existing railway corridor on the far side of Lake Calhoun. (It's worth noting that this option would have a stop right under Stuart Ackerberg's Lagoon Condo, which points to the way that investment feeds back on itself, creating other investment.)

The article also mentions a price tag, which ranges from $431 to $926 million 2010 dollars -- around the same cost as the Hiawatha Line if adjusted for inflation. The two plans illustrate the basic dilemma of mass transit lines: they are most expensive where they are most needed. Its safe to say that the second plan, through the heart of Uptown, would have a lot more riders and really be a boost to the already-hot Lyndale Avenue and Uptown real estate markets. The first plan, which runs along mostly uninhabited commercial train corridors through South Minneapolis, is far less densely populated.

But a 10-block long tunnel would be an expensive proposition, and would drive the cost up to a billion dollars. That's billion with a "b." The two plans are awaiting kabbalistic ridership studies, which will be the deciding factor. Well, that and taxpayer funding...

P.S. For a fun time, compare the social and economic costs and benefits of a new Twins Stadium to a new LRT line!


Astute reader kk points to this useful website: www.southwesttransitway.org


kk said...

"Unveiled" isn't really the right word... these alternatives have been under study for months now. They have really detailed information on www.southwesttransitway.org, including maps with all the possible western alignments.

Wm said...

Thanks for the link.

Do you know what the next step is?

kk said...

No problem! It's a topic near and dear to me so I'm happy to share.

They are planning to chose a "locally preferred alternative" in early summer, then they have to submit the research/materials used to make that decision to the FTA in order to get permission to move on to Preliminary Engineering. That is the point at which they get into the nitty gritty of width, right of way, number of cars, operating plan, and so on.