Minneapolis transit plan for Nicollet Corridor: $94 million or $398 million?


Streetcar advocates, including the City of Minneapolis, dominated the discussion of transit options for the Nicollet Corridor at a September 9 public forum at Minneapolis Central Library. Proponents of enhanced bus and no-build options were hard to find, and streetcars were the darlings of the evening.

The complete corridor is 9.2 miles from 46th Street South to 41st Street NE. A proposed streetcar “starter line” would run on only 3.4 of those miles, leaving the remaining 5.6 miles to be served by regular bus — at least in the first stage. With 2013 construction prices, that streetcar line could cost between $183-200 million. An enhanced bus line would cost $94 million and would serve the entire 9.2 miles.

Some 23 percent of the residents of the Nicollet Corridor are folks living below the poverty line, and that is a highly transit-reliant group, according to the summary material presented at the meeting.

Charleen Zimmer of Zan Associates, acting project manager for the City of Minneapolis, led the presentation. Zimmer said, “We want to be in a position for federal money. The starter streetcar would do that. Support for streetcars has been strong when asking people in the community.”

An enhanced bus is a hybrid electric articulated vehicle, efficient and quiet. Enhanced buses and streetcars share similar qualities. They both have roll-on roll-off boarding, faster boarding, fewer stops, better stop amenities, and larger vehicles. (See the PowerPoint slides from the city presentation for more details.)

Peter Wagenius, policy director for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, reported that the mayor favors modern streetcars combined with bus rapid transit (BRT) to the suburbs, and that, “$60 million of the $200 million would come from a value capture district that is directed to streetcar financing. Permanence attracts developers.”

What about the other $140 million? First, the Metropolitan Council would have to approve the project. Then, according to Wagenius, the legislature would have to pass a half-cent, seven-county-wide sales tax. Wagenius believes that the legislature would pass this tax.

The locally preferred alternative for Nicollet Corridor will be announced later this month. First, that alternative will be identified by the Technical Citizen Advisory Committee, then it will go on to the Policy Advisory Committee for approval, next onto the agenda of the Minneapolis City Council, and finally it will head to the Met Council for approval or not.

Comments are being collected through September 15. Go to www.minneapolismn.gov/nicollet-central.

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This is one of a number of articles produced by student interns at the TC Daily Planet.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Reporting for this article also supported in part by Bush Foundation.