The Central Corridor Project that will connect the St. Paul and Minneapolis downtown areas is another step officials are taking to incorporate light rails into the Twin Cities metro area. Officials hope the light rail will improve mobility throughout the metro, reduce road congestion and increase economic growth and development in the area. Even though many were enthusiastic about the project, it was not without its challenges.
Such a massive project required the support and funding of multiple governments and private groups alike. There were many political hurdles to clear on the path to secure funding for this project just at the state level. Competition for federal funding, necessary for the project to even happen, is especially fierce with projects from across the nation competing for those funds. It is a very long, arduous process where specific cost-effectiveness, environmental, and safety standards needed to be met before even being considered for Federal funds.
There were also administrative constraints with community stakeholders along the route of the light rail. Between concerns over parking, access to businesses, busing reductions and construction effects, the Met Council had plenty on its plate.
The University of Minnesota presented significant challenges as well, and being a large enough stakeholder they were able to alter the construction of the rails through campus in order to prevent negative externalities, vibrations and other interference, to nearby research facilities that might be caused by the light rail.
Another major challenge surrounded Washington Avenue Bridge. Hennepin County was already preparing to repair the bridge in the wake of the I-35W collapse, and now the bridge would need additional fortification to support light rail cars traveling across it. Met Council, being in charge of the light rail and Hennepin County in charge of repairs to the pedestrian level of the bridge, had to coordinate plans every step of the way to ensure that any repairs to the bridge would not hamper the plans of the light rail project.
Met Council was able to overcome these constraints and construction of the light rail is on pace to be completed on time in 2014. They hope to recreate the positive outcomes seen in the Hiawatha light rail line completed in 2004. Once completed officials’ estimate that the Central Corridor will provide workers access to nearly 280,000 jobs along the route, and by 2030 the line will provide access to about 345,000 jobs.