Green Line (Minnesota)
The METRO Green Line (formerly called the Central Corridor) is a light rail line under construction that will cover the 11-mile (18 km) connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in Minnesota. The line will follow the path of current Metro Transit bus routes 16 and 50 along University Avenue and Washington Avenue (which runs from downtown Minneapolis through the University of Minnesota main campus). It will be the second light-rail line in the region, after the Blue Line, which opened in 2004 and connects Minneapolis with the southern suburb of Bloomington. Construction on the Green Line began in late 2010, and it is projected to open in 2014.
Former streetcar line
The line's opening will mark the return of rail to the corridor, as a streetcar line along University Avenue was the first of four "interurban" streetcar connections between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and directly led to the merger creating the Twin City Rapid Transit system that served the region. That line existed from 1890 until it was paved over in 1953. The old tracks remained beneath the center median pavement until 2012, when they were excavated and removed for the new line. The old streetcar made frequent stops and had a center-of-street right-of-way. It was one of four lines termed "interurban" because they ran between the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The others ran along Como Avenue, Selby Avenue and Lake Street, and West 7th Street in Saint Paul as well as several streets in Minneapolis.
Within a generation of the last streetcar lines being removed in the Twin Cities, planners began thinking of returning to rail. In 1972, the Regional Fixed Guideway Study for the Metropolitan Transit Commission (the forerunner of today's Metro Transit) proposed a $1.3 billion 37- or 57-mile (sources differ) heavy-rail rapid transit system, but the then-separate Metropolitan Council disagreed with that idea – refusing to even look at the plan – and continuing political battles meant that it was never implemented. The Met Council had its own plans for bus rapid transit in the metropolitan region. Another system using smaller people movers was proposed in the 1975 Small Vehicle Fixed Guideway Study and gained the most traction with the Saint Paul city council, but was eventually dropped in 1980. In the 1980s, light rail was proposed as an alternative, and several possible corridors were identified, including the Central Corridor line which had a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) drawn up in 1982. It took another two decades before the Blue Line light rail line began operation on June 26, 2004, just over 50 years since the last regular-service streetcar ran on June 19, 1954 under the old Twin City Lines.
Though a 2003 study commissioned by the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee placed the cost at US$840 million, current estimates place the cost of the light rail line at about US$920 million.
The existing Blue Line has exceeded ridership predictions, as is the case with many other light rail lines constructed in the U.S. during the last decade. This led to some delays for the Central Corridor project because local transit officials were forced to retool ridership models before submitting projections to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The Metropolitan Council, which operates Metro Transit, submitted numbers showing that a light rail line would carry 43,000 passengers daily by the year 2030. The FTA agreed that the line would be cost-effective at this level, a key requirement for obtaining federal funding.
In April 2008, Governor Tim Pawlenty initially vetoed $70 million in funding for the Central Corridor project, along with other items, from the state budget. The funding was part of a state-local package of $227 million necessary to get federal transportation funds, and the future of the project was in doubt until May 18, 2008, when a revised bonding bill including the $70 million for the Central Corridor was passed in the Legislature and signed into law by the governor.
In August 2009 the Central Corridor project received a Record of Decision from the Federal Transit Administration. The FTA found the project to have fully and accurately completed its environmental documentation with the publication of the Final Environmental Impact statement earlier in the summer, thus clearing the project for final design.
The first construction began in late 2010, including work in downtown St. Paul and near the University of Minnesota campus. By November 2011, construction was about 32% complete, including most heavy construction such as the installation of track segments, a new bridge, partial completion of stations, a rebuilt skyway in St. Paul and the construction of Green Line facilities at St. Paul Union Station.
In July 2011, the Metropolitan Council officially named the Central Corridor as the Green Line.
As of August 2013, construction was completed and test trains have started running over the line.
Many businesses along the line were opposed to its development because of reduced access for automobiles. Under current plans, 87% of on-street parking will disappear along University Avenue between Raymond Avenue and Rice Street. At least one restaurant has cited light rail construction as a reason for closing.
The corridor contains working-class residents and immigrant populations from Laos and Vietnam. Although the Central Corridor construction is mostly an existing roadway and no land will be condemned, the disruption to existing transit and pedestrian ways has been a concern to some groups. There is also concern that stops for light rail will be placed too far apart and, along with reductions in bus service, transportation options for people will be reduced. Others are concerned about gentrification, where rising property values and taxes could force out lower-income residents.
Others have opposed using Washington Avenue for a pedestrian transit mall, and have opposed using the Washington Avenue bridge, citing traffic concerns, along with the age of the bridge, when other bridges upriver could be used to cross the Mississippi River: the 10th Avenue Bridge, the new I-35W bridge, or the Northern Pacific Bridge Number 9. This last option was preferred by the University of Minnesota, which feared traffic disruption and vibration at some of their research facilities from use of the Washington Avenue route. In late summer 2008, preliminary engineering reports showed that mitigation work could negate the effects of vibrations on university laboratory equipment. The University of Minnesota renewed its objections over vibration concerns along Washington Avenue in late 2009. Negotiations between the Metropolitan Council and the university continued into early 2010. A compromise was reached between the University and the Metropolitan Council and the Washington Avenue bridge was selected for use. As of Summer 2011, work has begun on the Washington Avenue bridge.
In January 2009, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) raised concerns over the effects of the light-rail trains on their recording studios on Cedar Street in downtown St. Paul. MPR presented the results of an engineering study which they sponsored that conflicted with that performed by the Metropolitan Council. A settlement between MPR and other involved parties will keep the light rail trains on Cedar Street, and will also compensate MPR for the addition of sound-proof upgrades to their studios.
In July 2011, the Metropolitan Council officially announced that the Central Corridor will be known as the Green Line. Corresponding transit lines will include the Blue Line (existing Hiawatha LRT), the Orange Line (under-construction 35W BRT) and the Red Line (existing Cedar Avenue BRT).
The line is to be extended to Mitchell Road Station in Eden Prairie, Minnesota along the Green Line Extension (Southwest Transitway). The extension will add 17 additional stations and 12 miles of trackage to the line.
Some in favor of the line have expressed concern with the number of stations. The neighborhoods along University have demanded that the line have stations every half-mile, from Snelling to Rice Street, which would mean stations at Hamline Avenue, Victoria Street, and Western Avenue. In February 2008, the Central Corridor Management Committee passed a resolution to include below-ground infrastructure for the Hamline, Victoria and Western stations "with the understanding that, if the CEI increases or other dollars are made available by mid-summer 2008, the first claim on those dollars would be one of the infill stations." The Metropolitan Council has included this infrastructure work in their Draft Environmental Impact Statement and has also committed to building one station if any funds become available.
As of 2009, the Federal Transit Administration has increased the Cost Effectiveness Index such that buildout of one station is now feasible. On January 25, 2010, the FTA announced that the three "infill" stations will be built. By December 2012, all three stations were almost complete.
The Northstar Line commuter rail line connects downtown Minneapolis with northwestern suburbs, with a station at the north/western terminus of the Blue and Green Lines. The two light rail lines would share trackage in downtown between the Northstar station and the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. A short westward extension to the Blue Line was completed connecting it to Target Field and making it easier to directly transfer from Northstar to either of the light rail corridors.
The temporary eastern terminus of the Green Line will be a street level station in front of the Saint Paul Union Depot, considered one of the great architectural achievements in the city and formerly one of the main points of departure for area train riders up until passenger rail service in the United States was restructured in the 1960s and 1970s. Future plans call for extending the line down to the concourse level, and provisions have been made including building the maintenance shops on adjacent land. The concourse of the Union Depot would become a transfer point for people coming into St. Paul along the proposed Red Rock and Rush Line commuter rail lines. As of December 2012, Union Depot is a transit center for Metro Transit and Jefferson Lines buses, and in 2013 will begin hosting Amtrak's Empire Builder.
Siemens Industry Incorporated will build 31 S70 Light Rail Vehicles for the Green Line, and another 10 for the Blue Line's three-car train expansion project, at a per-LRV cost of $3,297,714 and a total contract value of $153,211,516. The 41 LRVs will be built in Florin, California. The first vehicle was delivered on October 10, 2012.
The Blue Line's original first-generation fleet of 27 Flexity Swift LRVs was built by Bombardier; the Siemens "type II" LRVs will be mechanically, but not electronically, compatible with the current fleet of 27 "type I" vehicles, so while the two generations will be able to run on the tracks at the same time and either type would be able to push a malfunctioning unit of the other type, multiple-unit trains may only be assembled of one type.
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- Metro Council Central Corridor Site
- Central Corridor Coordinating Committee Site
- Central Corridor construction updates on Twitter
- Ready For Rail
- Businesses on the Green Line
- Southwest Transitway