Friday, February 8, 2008

Continuing Progress on the Central Corridor
Some Players Make Compromises

Mr. B. has posted previously on the developing story of the Central Corridor project that is to link Minneapolis and St. Paul via light rail. The project budget needs to be lowered in order to obtain matching federal funds. A decision about the project is to be made by the Metropolitan Council at the end of the month.

The Strib today reports recent developments:

By CHRIS HAVENS, Star Tribune

February 7, 2008

It's Central Corridor crunch time, and Ramsey County knows it.

To keep the light-rail plan on track and present a united front with its project partners, the county is willing to let the line stop in front of downtown's Union Depot for now.

The cost-saving compromise, scheduled for a vote at Tuesday's meeting of the Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority, was hailed as a "very helpful development," by Peter Bell, chairman of the Metropolitan Council.

The line would end on Fourth Street in front of the Union Depot, rather than extending to the depot's abandoned rear concourse, which county officials envision as a regional transportation hub for buses, trains and taxis. That change could save between $32 million and $58 million.

The plan doesn't address whether to include a $200 million tunnel University of Minnesota officials want to route the trains under the West Bank campus.

Bell said Thursday that needs to shrink to about $900 million if the project is to win federal approval. The Met Council will decide on what stays and goes Feb. 27.

University officials also are continuing to look for ways to move the project along, while still addressing concerns about adding trains to already busy Washington Avenue.

Kathleen O'Brien, vice president for university services, said Thursday that planners are looking at ways to make the tunnel less expensive, such as shortening it.

Also on the table is creating a transit mall on Washington between the Mississippi River and Oak Street, which would require a study of where more than 25,000 vehicles a day might go.

And the university is paying for a study of an alignment that could take light rail through campus via Dinkytown instead of along Washington.

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