There'll be speeches, celebrations, music, free rides and plenty of fanfare as the Green Line light rail project launches Saturday. But the way it all started was kind of boring.
On June 5, 2001, a relatively obscure agency, the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority, published a "notice of intent" to prepare an "alternative analysis and environmental impact statement for the Central Corridor."
That's the first entry in the Metropolitan Council's Green Line timeline, which also noted that planning for a light rail line joining St. Paul and Minneapolis dated back to 1981.
Saturday's opening represents a huge, long-term gambit, an effort more than a decade in the making, costing state and federal taxpayers nearly $1 billion to build.
Backers believe the Green Line will ease transit problems in the Twin Cities and deliver dollars and new development along its 11-mile route. Skeptics say these kinds of projects never deliver on those rosy projections. But developers are on board, and businesses in the neighborhoods along the line are guardedly optimistic.
Besides, its in place now. The Green Line has been under construction since 2010 and has undergone months of testing. Trains will run from Target Field station in Minneapolis to Union Depot in St. Paul with 21 stations in between. The service is scheduled to run 48 minutes from end to end.
You'll also be able to catch a Green Line train any hour day or not. It will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with trains every 10 minutes during the day, 10 to15 minutes in the evenings and 30 to 60 minutes overnight, according to Metro Transit.
Metro Transit trains and buses will run for free all weekend to help launch the Green Line, said Met Council spokesman John Siqveland. On Saturday, there'll be community celebrations along the line at nine locations, he noted "a really exciting day for the transit system."
The first train is expected to roll at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Disclosure: Minnesota Public Radio and the Metropolitan Council are negotiating ways to reduce noise and vibrations from the newly built light rail line outside MPR headquarters under a contract agreed to in 2009.
MPR News reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this report.