Shortly after his election for a first term as Mayor, Chris Coleman stated that alternative routes for the Central Corridor LRT line, including a route running north of University Avenue, have been studied repeatedly. During his campaign for a second term, Mayor Coleman continued saying that the northern alignment was studied, and that the study determined that the northern route “wouldn’t serve very many folks.”
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The Central Corridor LRT line serves 5 major access points. A northern route would provide all 5 major access points faster, safer and less costly LRT service than the proposed 11-mile, 45-minute route in the middle of the street. When the Mayor says it would not serve many folks, he ignores or denies the existence of everyone traveling to and from: the 2 downtowns, the University of Minnesota, the State Capitol Complex and the Como-Hamline-Midway area.
A northern route would also provide new service, where none currently exists, to: the U of M St. Paul Campus, the Fairgrounds, Como park, Hamline University, Bandana Square, Midway Stadium, the St. Anthony Park neighborhood in St. Paul, and Southeast neighborhood in Minneapolis.
Several years ago, after hearing the newly elected Mayor allege that all route alternatives had been studied “over and over again,” I asked: Where is the study of a northern route?
Several years later, the Final EIS for the Central Corridor LRT project states: “This alignment (behind rather than in front of KSTP) was not studied during previous phases of Central Corridor LRT project development.”
No study of a northern route for the Central Corridor LRT line occurred until March 2008, when the U of M hired an “external consultant” to study the viability of a northern alignment.
The only study of a northern route occurred after the University Avenue route was already chosen and after the tunnel under Washington Avenue was deemed too expensive. The University spent several hundred thousand dollars on the study that looped the train north off of University Avenue onto the rail corridor, and over the river where a bicycle-pedestrian bridge currently stands. The MNDOT-sanctioned study, funded but not conducted by the University, recommended demolishing the existing bicycle-pedestrian bridge and replacing it with a new bridge to carry the train. The MNDOT-sanctioned study of also called for bulldozing low-income townhomes, and new roadwork to route the train through the traffic mess pouring into and out of the University’s parking facilities.
The Met Council then rejected the plan recommended in the University-funded-MNDOT-sanctioned study claiming that the northern route through Dinkytown was too costly and reduced ridership. Ironically, the rejection of the “too expensive” northern route was followed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University and the Met Council that calls for about $50 million for “Project Elements,” “Mitigation Measures,” and “Betterments” to accomodate the at-grade alignment on Washington Aveue.
A northern alignment for an LRT line connecting the major access points in the central corridor between Minneapolis and St. Paul has never been studied. Mayor Coleman’s claim that it was studied is false.