Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota/Hiawatha Corridor LRT
Hiawatha Corridor LRT
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
Metro Transit and the Metropolitan Council (local metropolitan planning organization), in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), are proposing to design and construct an 11.6-mile Light Rail Transit (LRT) line within the Hiawatha Corridor. The proposed LRT will operate on the Hiawatha Avenue/Trunk Highway 55 Corridor linking downtown Minneapolis, the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) International Airport, and the Mall of America (MOA) in Bloomington. The LRT is the transit component of a Locally Preferred Alternative, which includes the reconstruction of TH-55 as a four lane at-grade arterial between Franklin Avenue and 59th Street and construction of an interchange between TH-55 and TH-62 (Crosstown Highway).
Current plans call for the north end of the LRT to begin in the Central Business District (CBD) and operate on the existing transit mall along 5th Street. The LRT is planned to exit the CBD near the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome, following the former Soo Line Railroad to Franklin Avenue then generally parallel Hiawatha Avenue. The project will include a 1.8-mile tunnel to be constructed under the MSP airport runways and taxiways with the construction of one underground station and one at-grade station. The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) will be responsible for the portion of the line that impacts the MSP, including the tunnel and stations. The line is then planned to emerge from the tunnel on the West Side of the airport and continue south with three proposed stations in Bloomington, including a station serving the Mall of America (MOA). The estimated capital cost for the 11.6-mile Hiawatha Corridor LRT, including 17 proposed stations, totals $675.4 million (escalated dollars). The project is expected to serve 24,800 average weekday boardings by the year 2020; 19,300 average weekday boardings are projected in the opening year.
A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), including a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Hiawatha Avenue Corridor, was completed in February 1985. The preferred alternative documented in the 1985 FEIS included the reconstruction of the roadway to a four-lane, divided at-grade arterial, with an LRT line adjacent to the roadway and extending north to the Minneapolis CBD and south to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Since the completion of the 1985 FEIS, improvements have been implemented on the roadway elements of the preferred alternative.
FTA approved Metro Transit to initiate preliminary engineering in January 1999 on the LRT component of the LPA. In August 1999, Metro Transit completed a re-evaluation of the 1985 FEIS on a segment of the alignment extending from the Minneapolis CBD to Interstate 494. An Environmental Assessment (EA) on the segment extending from I-494 to the MOA was also completed that same month. Revised information included updated cost and ridership estimates, a final route alignment in the downtown Minneapolis portion of the project, and alignment options at the airport as well as options for service to the MOA. The proposed Hiawatha Corridor LRT is included in the region’s financially constrained Transportation Improvement Program and the Long-Range Transportation Plan. FTA issued a ROD on the re-evaluation of the 1985 FEIS on the Hiawatha Corridor LRT line in April 2000. In the same month, the Federal Aviation Administration also issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on an EA on the portion of the LRT project that will connect with the MSP International Airport. FTA approved the LRT’s entrance into final design in April 2000. FTA and the Metropolitan Council entered into a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the Hiawatha Corridor LRT in January 2001. The FFGA commits $334.3 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds to the project. The Hiawatha Corridor LRT is scheduled to begin initial revenue operations in late 2003. Per the FFGA, full revenue service is scheduled to commence in December 2004.
Section 3030(a)(91) of TEA-21 authorizes the “Twin Cities – Transitway Corridors” for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $118.84 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for the “Twin Cities Transitways” project, which includes the Hiawatha Corridor light rail project.