By Frederick Melo
The Metropolitan Council has announced a June 14 debut for the long-awaited Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line, or Green Line, that connects downtown Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota and downtown St. Paul.
To mark the announcement, Met Council Chairwoman Sue Haigh joined transit advocates and elected officials Wednesday morning at the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul, near the line’s Fourth Street Station.
“Starting service 60 years to the month after the last streetcar left the Twin Cities is fitting,” said Haigh, who began advocating for the Green Line more than a decade ago, during her tenure on the Ramsey County Board.
“For me, seeing two vibrant downtowns, numerous job, education and medical centers, and tens of thousands of people connected by this project is the most exciting part.
The 11-mile, $957 million transit line is the state’s second light-rail line. The Hiawatha Line, or Blue Line, opened between Minneapolis, the Mall of America in Bloomington and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 2004. The two lines will share more than a mile of track in Minneapolis.
A June debut will allow Metro Transit a month to run the Green Line trains before the July 15 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis.
“We are absolutely ahead of schedule and … on budget,” Haigh said, noting that the Federal Transit Administration expected completion before the end of 2014. “This is really going to pay off.”
Throughout four years of construction, the Green Line was the subject of intense scrutiny and several lawsuits from business owners, the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio regarding the likely impact of construction or track vibrations on their operations.
None of the lawsuits halted construction. Private and public developers have pursued more than $1.7 billion in new projects along the line, from high-end apartments to housing for homeless youth. St. Paul is situating a $63 million ballpark in Lowertown to open in 2015.
Development along the streetcar corridor has worried some small-business owners, who fear they’ll be priced out of the market, but it also has breathed new life into some vacant or underused properties.
“Take a drive down University Avenue,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who is chair of the Counties Transit Improvement Board. “It’s phenomenal what’s going on.”
Haigh said the June 14 debut, which falls on a Saturday, will be marked with free rides on all Metro Transit rail and bus routes for the weekend, as well as community celebrations at eight stations. The 11-mile corridor will link the Union Depot to the State Capitol complex, St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, the University of Minnesota and Target Field.
Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega, chairman of the county’s Regional Railroad Authority, said in a statement that early planning studies 30 years ago looked at the possibility of linking the two downtowns. He said that close collaboration between the two counties, the Met Council and other transit advocates made it possible. Half the construction price tag was federally funded.
Speakers at Tuesday’s event included McLaughlin and Polly Talen, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Talen served as a co-chair of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative that has supported projects — from affordable housing to art — to try to connect residents and business owners to the light rail.
WAITING ON THE TRAIN
The Central Corridor, or Green Line, will be Minnesota’s second light-rail line and will connect downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.
June 14, 2014
9.8 miles of new track, with an additional mile of shared track with the Hiawatha Blue Line
18 stations, plus five additional stations shared with Blue Line
40,000 weekday boardings projected by the year 2030
$957 million — includes $3.3 million per Siemens train car
A trip between Nicollet Mall Station in Minneapolis and Central Station in St. Paul will take about 40 minutes
Rack room for four bicycles and accommodations for four wheelchairs per train car
Green Line fares will be the same as standard buses — $1.75 off-peak, $2.25 weekday rush hour
Departures 5 a.m. to about 1 a.m., seven days per week, every 10 minutes during day and every 10-to-15 minutes in the evenings
In late February, daily runs will take place every 10 minutes to test the signaling and communication systems, operations, track and traction power, as well as Target Field Station’s new interchange
61 new train operators will be trained
STILL TO BE DONE
20 of the 59 Siemens light rail vehicles remain to be delivered
Stairway-elevator at Fifth and Cedar streets in downtown St. Paul is near completion
Track switches in the rail yard of the operations and maintenance facility in Lowertown
Completion of a traction power substation in downtown St. Paul
Replacement of cracked concrete in intersections along University Avenue in St. Paul and fixing the elevation of manhole covers