Light-rail project 74% complete, most University-area construction should be done when students return from winter break


The University of Minnesota will be relieved of heavy Central Corridor light-rail construction by the end the year.

“The work next year will be quiet and tidy,” said Laura Baenen, spokeswoman for the project. “All the earth-moving will be done.”

She said roadways, sidewalks, curbs and gutters for all 18 new stations — including the four stops near the University — will be completed by the end of December. According to the Metropolitan Council, the Central Corridor is now more than 74 percent complete.

In 2013, construction workers will string miles of overhead wires and install traction-powered substations, both of which will electrically power the light rail. In addition, each station will receive unique artwork.

Last week, crews began applying art to the West Bank stop, a process the East Bank station underwent over the summer.

Before the end of 2013, trains will be running — with only operators onboard — for safety tests that will determine the Central Corridor’s 2014 opening date.

Bus Systems and LRT

Metro Transit will reroute buses to make the Central Corridor the primary mode of public transportation through campus, said David Levinson, a University professor of transportation engineering.

“The buses will become more of a feeder system for the light rail,” he said.

When the Central Corridor is completed, the bus route 50 will be eliminated and the route 16 will come less frequently. Levinson said this will force students to choose between a longer walk to a light-rail station or a longer wait time for a bus.

The University Campus Connector’s role will also shift toward connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses rather than the East and West Banks, he said.

For Levinson, the greatest benefit of the Central Corridor will be its improved frequency compared to buses. Trains will arrive every six minutes during peak times, which he said will provide better service to riders.

‘The wrong people’

The project, which will service a projected 41,000 riders per weekday by 2030, has the University community buzzing about its possible effects on campus.

Though communications and Spanish senior Jessica Rosenauer said she thinks the Central Corridor will better connect campus, she said she worries about safety.

“I personally think it will bring in the wrong people,” she said.

Marketing sophomore Hannah Blenkush echoed that concern.

“If it’s public transportation, you can’t limit who comes through here,” she said, “and that just concerns me.”

But Levinson said he doesn’t believe campus safety will be affected.

“I don’t think the safety issues are any worse than with bus,” he said.

Potential housing effects

Despite Central Corridor safety concerns, Blenkush sees potential benefits for commuters.

“For students looking to live further away for pricing reasons, I think [the light rail] will make things easier,” she said.

Levine said the Central Corridor could potentially expand housing options for students by giving them the opportunity to live farther from campus.

“If you make it easier to get here from farther away, you’re making it more likely that people will live farther away,” he said.

But he said the improved access to campus could also make housing more expensive if professionals who work in downtown Minneapolis begin living closer to the University.

Other Progress

In addition to meeting the 74 percent completion mark, the project has reached other major milestones in the past month.

The first light-rail vehicle built specifically for the Central Corridor debuted Oct. 10 at the Target Field Station for various dignitaries. It’s one of the 47 cars currently being built in California for the light rail.

The Met Council will have another announcement about light-rail progress around Nov. 10.