Transit planners want light rail hub for future expansion

Central Corridor LRT
With Central Corridor construction finishing up for the winter, University Avenue opened to two lanes of traffic traveling both east and west in early December, 2011. This photo was made along University Avenue just west of Fairview Avenue.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Transit planners in Hennepin County hope to build a new rail hub in downtown Minneapolis before the Central Corridor light rail line is finished.

The Interchange, as transit officials call it, would be a terminal for future light rail lines, connecting the Central Corridor and Hiawatha lines with Northstar trains. It would be built on county land near Target Field.

County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said it would be easiest to build now to be finished when the Central Corridor light rail line opens in 2014.

"We want to have this Interchange facility open when Central [Corridor] opens up because it's cheaper and less disruptive to build this facility when you only have to deal with one operating line, Hiawatha, rather than waiting for Central to come as well, McLaughlin said.

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Project manager Ed Hunter says county commissioners need to act quickly if they want the hub finished in the next two years.

"If we're going to do this in this time frame, to stay ahead of central corridor, the county probably needs to make a decision on go or no go in April," Hunter said.

The Interchange will also serve future light rail lines planned for the southwest metro and Northeast Minneapolis, Hunter said.

Central Corridor LRT
Near the intersection of Hamline and University avenues, 1,040-foot-long light rail tracks that will be used to construct the Central Corridor are stored in the middle of the street Friday, Dec. 2, 2011 in St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Funding for the proposal is about $30 million short of it's estimated $68 million cost, but planners are asking state lawmakers to close most of that gap with bonds.