Sunday, February 10, 2008

Central Corridor Solution on the Horizon

Or, Cass Invoked, End Near?

From the Pioneer-Planet:

Deal on light-rail route nearer

County, U are under the gun to meet federal funds requirement


Pioneer Press

Crunch time is bringing compromise to the Central Corridor.

With a Feb. 27 deadline looming for the route of the light-rail line connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis, key concessions emerged Thursday on both ends of the line.

Ramsey County commissioners have changed their tune on the train's route through downtown St. Paul. And the University of Minnesota is scaling back its hopes for a tunnel. They are considering a century-old campus-altering vision that would ban traffic from Washington Avenue altogether.


Meanwhile, the U is looking to bring costs down where the train cuts through its East Bank Campus. University and rail officials, as well as consultants, are studying three options: shrinking the tunnel, avoiding the heart of the campus altogether by traveling along the northern edge and creating a "transit mall," or plaza, along what is now Washington Avenue, said Kathleen O'Brien, vice president for university services.

The plaza idea would ban all nontransit, nonemergency vehicles from Washington Avenue between the Mississippi River and Oak Street. It has caught the attention of many because it resurrects Twin Cities architect Cass Gilbert's original vision of the campus, currently sliced by Washington Avenue and its 29,000 vehicles a day.

Gilbert, who also designed the Capitol in St. Paul, drew up plans around 1907 for a neoclassical mall stretching across the waistline of campus from today's Northrop Auditorium to the bank of the river. O'Brien said designers haven't yet figured out exactly what to do with Washington Avenue traffic.

"With the analysis that we'll have in the next few weeks, we hope we can work on some language and potential action that recognizes our objectives, and allow the project to move forward," she said Thursday.

This sounds hopeful.

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